As in the past few decades the scale and complexity of the preservation practice have expanded beyond imagination, so too has the understanding of what is the historic heritage today. It seems not possible anymore to describe the range of problems of preservation in terms of classical oppositions only — Ruskin’s appreciation of ruins vs. Viollet-le- Duc’s restoration; conservation vs. destruction; the European system vs. the American one.
In the post-industrial society, different ideologies, theories and schools tend to merge, creating nonlinear dynamics, controversial mutations, spawning myriads of new questions about what, how and for whom to preserve our heritage. Despite (or due to) the evergrowing list of heritage sites and determined activities of institutions, preservation societies, and groups of enthusiasts, the very subject of preservation stubbornly eludes precise definition.
Moreover, the heritage preservation that used to be considered primarily a cultural matter has over time developed, by sometimes-mysterious means, a strong interdependence with the domains of economy, politics, sociology, and information technology. The world of historic preservation once monopolised almost exclusively by antiquarians obviously cannot survive today without other professionals. Right in front of our eyes, it becomes a truly symbiotic and interdisciplinary practice.
Reasoned back through the history of preservation theory and practice and forward to the recognition of historic preservation’s ability to create new urban and cultural conditions, studio Preservation Next considered an astute and creative revision of the current state of affairs its primary goal. Students were confronted with the task of investigating the objects that went way beyond design issues and the built world itself; of testing their own ability to operate across professional boundaries and to address problems contextually and collectively.
This studio had no intention whatsoever to come up with any final solutions for how to deal with the recent and
not so recent past in the complex realm of contemporary cities. The ultimate ambition was to question, to the best of our skills and experience, the prevailing stereotypes that hamper the development of our understanding of what is historic heritage today and what it will become in the near future—to rock the boat, as it were.
The ideas, observations, intuitions, even the new vocabulary generated within this studio through the six-month research, public discussions, and in conversations with experts and tutors are to be disagreed with, to be challenged by professionals and the general public alike and, hopefully, are to be developed further after the education process has been completed.