Building perservation practice: Architect's interpretation and communication of stories in the built environment.

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Cultural Heritage sites are in the current practice, defined as everything you find on a site within a delimited selected area. Written sources and guidelines for the preservation of the cultural heritage, written by the public authorities or professionals describe them as places that tell a story, and they indicate the importance of this story to be preserved.

The professionals, who cooperate on the preservation efforts for the cultural environments today, all emphasizes the communication of the story, but using different approaches towards the processes of reading, interpreting and communicating. The role of architects and planners is primarily to reconcile the conservation prospects with the future use of buildings and sites. They intermediary the site through selections of the narratives, and in practice the restoration or transformation projects becomes a communication of the selected story, utilized as a component within the design process. The deindustrialisation has in the past few years resulted in a large number of empty buildings and sites that will need a transformation for new purposes. It leaves us only a short period of time to evaluate what possibilities the buildings and sites can offer. The currently focus on the experience economic potentials of the cultural heritage, raises the expectation of a economic gain of the transformation projects, which can cause decisions made under pressure that cannot be reversed in the future. Industrial sites and buildings, who needs a significant transformation in order to be used for more specific purposes as residential or commercial areas has today become a task that is practiced by many architects. The question is if the industrial sites have the potential to attract so many new users and if not, can the process then be renegotiated in the future planning?

In this paper I will focus on the communication of the architects working with building preservation and planning, how they communicate the building, the interventions and the storytelling in practice. The methods used by the architects are based on a practice, where some skills are learned through education, such as documentation of buildings and the restoration as a way of communicating the architect's intervention on the building, meanwhile the communication of the buildings history is seen as a "natural" skill and the methods are not questioned in the practice. The storytelling has today become a normal practice among architects, but it seems to be based mostly on random choices and not always without loss of values, because the transformation often erases most parts of the original building.

In the planning for cultural heritage sites the communication of preservation interests is made by the use of the SAVE system[1], a tool made by architects to communicate preservation values to other architects. This system was originally based on openness with the use of re-evaluations in the planning process, but in today's practice the use of the system has changed and the intentions behind this communication have been lost. At the same time the local museums have very poor influence on the decisions made by the municipality and are well included in the planning process. 

The Grenaa Textile Factory is an example of an industrial site that was to be transformed into a commercial and residential area. It was the largest industry in the region and an important part of the local history. The preservation interests were meant to be respected both locally and nationally, but the interests were neglected in the planning process in order to make an intensive us of the site. The architects proposed a project of primarily new residential and commercial buildings and once most of the site was demolished, the project stopped because of the crisis. Today only a few industrial buildings are left on the site, but the story of the textile factory is permanently gone. This case illustrates how the communication processes have failed and how the use of the SAVE system has been used in an inappropriate way.

The communication theory of Eilean Hooper-Greenhill used to day by museums, is a model for the communications between the communicator and the receiver. It is concerned by the negotiated production, rather than the imposition of meaning. From this view it is proposed that "reality" has no finite identity, but it is brought into existence by storytelling, and that the stories are produced through communication between communicator and receiver.[2] Inspired by this model I will try to point out the communication problems in the case of the textile factory. I will propose a better way of communication with the use of the SAVE system and a better collaboration of the museums in the planning process. Using this approach in the preservation practice, the room for storytelling will be much larger and also renegotiable if necessary. Using the possibility of plural communicators and plural "realities", it could create a wider range of future possibilities within the preservation practice for the industrial sites of cultural heritage value.    

[1] SAVE - Survey of Architectural Values in the Environment.

[2] Eilean Hooper-Greenhill. The Educational Role of the Museum. Leicester Readers in Museum studies. Routledge, Second edition. 1999




Antal sider2
StatusUdgivet - 2010
BegivenhedAs Found. World in Denmark 2010 - København, Danmark
Varighed: 17 jun. 201019 jun. 2010


KonferenceAs Found. World in Denmark 2010


  • Bevaringspraksis
  • Kommunikationsmodeller
  • Museer
  • Restaurering
  • Arkitektonisk praksis
  • Genanvendelse af industribygninger
  • Planlægning
  • Transformation

Kunstnerisk udviklingsvirksomhed (KUV)

  • Nej