Giorgia Aquilar (München/Venedig): »Afterlives. Urban Heritage between Salvage and Sacrifice«

Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
Marienstr. 13 C, Hörsaal A

«Amid the ruins, Germans mail each other picture postcards still showing the cathedrals and market places, the public buildings and bridges that no longer exist» – notes Hannah Arendt against a post-war urban landscape of remnants.

This continued circulation of images of unmolested urban icons – amnesiac denial of unbearable losses – warrants a closer scrutiny of the contradictions and potentialities of heritage as a repository of collective belonging and the afterlives of its intentional or unintentional unbuilding. Today, lost spires of iconic cathedrals or saved sections of demolished utopian megastructures invoke heritage dilemmas that go far beyond single stories – beyond the fragility or robustness of architecture, its belonging to a celebrated or condemned era, its perishing by fire or the wrecking ball. What these heritage spectres entail for theories of architecture and the city is a renegotiation of losses and unexpected returns as living substance. But how to re-insufflate a sense of togetherness in the absence of the recollection object? Both recent and established discourses and practices of architecture are devoted in the main either to embalming endangered assets in figures of the past or to supplanting them with simulacra or ersatz creations. It is to the potential routes for urban heritage to escape this twin bind that this talk is devoted. If architecture is to overcome this binarism, it will have to evolve new theoretical tools to illuminate and orient heritage futures across shared preservation and design domains. To this end, a sequence of untranslatables – hyper-dense German terms with their progenity in philosophical and psychoanalytical discourses – is introduced as a preliminary expansion of the heritage lexicon and a broadening of the design protocol. By admitting different uses and meanings, these lemmas may serve as a provisional architectonic for rereading tales of destruction and counternarratives of preservation for artefacts and spaces that become unforeseen others of themselves. The ambiguities of this paradoxical inheritance open up new room for manoeuvre, turning apparent death into the prelude to second lives and multiple afterlives for urban heritage – even ones that leave many of its past conventions behind.

Giorgia Aquilar is an architect and postdoctoral researcher at the Technical University of Munich. She currently holds a fellowship awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Prior to that, she was postdoctoral fellow of the TUM University Foundation and at the University IUAV of Venice, and adjunct professor at the University of Naples Federico II. Her research stands at the intersection of architectural theory, urban design and historic preservation, with a special focus on evolutionary taxonomies and strategies for heritage futures. She has published a number of articles and essays on related themes, including: Afterwardsness As Design Process (in: «Processes of Reflexive Design», edited by Margitta Buchert), and The Ideal of the Broken-Down: Porous States of Disrepair (in: «Porous City», edited by Sophie Wolfrum As a member of the IUAV study team, she contributed to the drafting of the European report for the United Nations Conference Habitat III, included in the UNESCO publication Culture: Urban Future Global Report on Culture for Sustainable Urban Development (Paris, 2016). She has been the recipient of grants and fellowships for her scholarly work, including from the Harvard Research Center Dumbarton Oaks, the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at The Pennsylvania State University, and the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage.