Riegl's 'Modern Cult of Monuments' as a theory underpinning practical conservation and restoration work
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionAhmer, C. (2020). Riegl’s ‘Modern Cult of Monuments’ as a theory underpinning practical conservation and restoration work. Journal of Architectural Conservation, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/13556207.2020.1738727
‘The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Origin’ (1903), written by Alois Riegl, is the first systematic analysis of heritage values and of a theory of restoration. His values and concepts became fundamental principles of the Venice Charter (1964). However, in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the Charter in 2014, it was pointed out that the attempt to reconcile notions of the monument with the ‘postmodern’ idea of multiple and shifting values has resulted in an ever-expanding definition of the ‘monument’ – without serious questioning of the underlying principles that guide its treatment. This article analyzes Riegl’s ‘commemorative values’ and ‘present-day values’ in the light of the conservation and restoration work of the Norwegian architect Kristian Bjerknes, who in 1979 was awarded a European prize for his preservation of cultural heritage. His work illustrates how Riegl’s age value theory can be used for a wide variety of building types and situations. Bjerknes applied it as a strategy for conservation and restoration of wooden buildings, and in adapting architectural heritage to modern living conditions. He also transferred the theory to museum work and to the rebuilding of demolished buildings. His preservation work illustrates how theory and practice are interwined.