ICCROM Built Heritage Forum at Tongji: Background Information on ICCROM

Built Heritage: A Cultural Motivator for Urban and Rural Development

In terms of ICCROM, the international organisation is more focused on training in the heritage sector. In terms of size, the order would be UNESCO > ICOMOS > ICCROM. In terms of operations, UNESCO takes charge of listing, ICOMOS takes charge of recommendations and identification and ICCROM in terms of training and education of people in practice. ICOMOS has been referred by people in the field (e.g. Matthias) as a ‘black box’, talking about its dire need to be more transparent and become less of a club and more of an inclusive organisation. UNESCO’s top-down approach of Charters and documents have also been commented on as being not effective on the ground, or even not been cared about. The ICCROM is, on the other hand, a much less known branch in built heritage. However, it is associated with WHITRAP, a training arm of UNESCO and was started in Suzhou, as an initiative by the Chinese government to bring people together since 2004.


Linked Hybrid

Went to Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid, which turned out to be much shorter than the impression that I got from the pictures, perhaps because the buildings beside it were at a Chinese scale of 50 stories. The architecture was unsurprisingly like the photos. I almost wished that there were more surprises to discover, even though the cinema was rather pleasant to find, especially when this building did not scream ‘look at me’ like the other ones. Unfortunately, the linked hybrid does not work as a public square as the entrances are heavily guarded. The combination of residential blocks surrounding public-serving restaurants and a stand-alone cinema was a wild stab by an American architect trying to create publicness in a residential community. But how can you prevent gated communities when the definition of ‘good’ is exclusivity? On the other hand, however, maybe it is a look at what the definition of ‘public space’ is. People who lived in the linked hybrid obviously enjoyed the courtyards and water features. There were mums with babies hanging out on the bridges and couples taking strolls. That use of space is public to its residents, a feature that is common in almost all gated communities. There is a need for public space close to home, or in other words, public spaces that have their basis in residential quarters. Why would other people use these public spaces other than for commerial/entertainment uses? So the question becomes, why does the gated communities need to be public to everybody?


The architect Renzo Piano explains his own working procedure thus: ‘‘You start by sketching, then you do a drawing, then you make a model, and then you go to reality—you go to the site—and then you go back to drawing. You build up a kind of circularity between drawing and making and then back again.’’About repetition and practice Piano observes, ‘‘This is very typical of the craftsman’s approach. You think and you do at the same time. You draw and you make. Drawing . . . is revisited. You do it, you redo it, and you redo it again.’’ This attaching, circular metamorphosis can be aborted by CAD. Once points are plotted on-screen, the algorithms do the drawing; misuse occurs if the process is a closed system, a static means-end—the ‘‘circularity’’ of which Piano speaks disappears.

Because of the machine’s capacities for instant erasure and refiguring, the architect Elliot Felix observes, ‘‘each action is less consequent than it would be [on] paper . . . each will be less carefully considered.’’ Returning to physical drawing can overcome this danger; harder to counter is an issue about the materials of which the building is made. Flat computer screens cannot render well the textures of different materials or assist in choosing their colors, though the CAD programs can calculate to a marvel the precise amount of brick or steel a building might require. Drawing in bricks by hand, tedious though the process is, prompts the designer to think about their materiality, to engage with their solidity as against the blank, unmarked space on paper of a window. Computer-assisted design also impedes the designer in thinking about scale, as opposed to sheer size. Scale involves judgments of proportion; the sense of proportion onscreen appears to the designer as the relation of clusters of pixels. The object on-screen can indeed be manipulated so that it is presented, for instance, from the vantage point of someone on the ground, but in this regard CAD is frequently misused: what appears on-screen is impossibly coherent, framed in a unified way that physical sight never is.

Troubles with materiality have a long pedigree in architecture. Few large-scale building projects before the industrial era had detailed working drawings of the precise sort CAD can produce today; Pope Sixtus V remade the Piazza del Popolo in Rome at the end of the sixteenth century by describing in conversation the buildings and public space he envisioned, a verbal instruction that left much room for the mason, glazier, and engineer to work freely and adaptively on the ground. Blueprints—inked designs in which erasure is possible but messy—acquired legal force by the late nineteenth century, making these images on paper equivalent to a lawyer’s contract. The blueprint signaled, moreover, one decisive disconnection between head and hand in design: the idea of a thing made complete in conception before it is constructed.

Sennett, The Craftsman, pg. 51-53


What is the polemic of my design? (argument against some doctrine)

  • Have a prediction for what is going to happen in the future and a spatial response to it, whether that is for, or against the doctrine.
  • Urban Villages (but not Xiaozhou’s situation)
    • Entering into a continuous replacement and densification of space
    • To a certain threshold where it will then be demolished and rebuilt entirely
  • What do you think will happen to Xiaozhou Village?
    • Gentrification/cleansing
    • Urban migrants will be displaced by middle class population, either through tourism or commercial developments (residential retreats)
    • Heritage is used as a form of control/power (by government & villagers)
      • Heritage as a form of  cleansing (necessarily the use of heritage means that only certain strands of collectiveness is legitimized)
      • Heritage as a form of legitimizable identity – the process of legitimization of identity through AHD
  • Is this unique to the Chinese situation?
    • Heritage used a method for gentrification, I’m sure there are examples
  • What doctrine am I arguing against?
    • From heritage as a form of control (resistance to change) to heritage as a form of intervention (recognises change)
    • Recognising that heritage can act as a form of resistance to control
  • What is the spatial proposal?
    • Build walls to denote a protected oasis for urban migrants
    • How do you use heritage as a form of intervention
    • Use heritage to intervene – HOW? WHAT ASPECTS of heritage? WHAT CHARACTERISTICS of heritage is unique and can be used to intervene?
      • Self-referential (discourse)
    • What are the spatial tools of heritage?
      • Materiality
      • Boundary
      • Surveying

London Festival of Architecture


Is calling for entries for its 2017 run.

London Festival of Architecture has announced that the theme of the 2017 festival will be ‘memory’. The theme of will be explored through a wide range of events and activities when the London Festival of Architecture – Europe’s biggest annual architecture festival – returns on 1-30 June 2017.

London is a city of myriad layers, each infused with memory: of people, buildings, places and experiences. London’s built environment, with memories bound up within it, is fundamental to how people experience the city, and the starting point from which architects, developers and communities can address change.

London’s built memories are never far from its present – living on in old place names, the City of London’s medieval street pattern, or London’s rich architectural heritage. Memory is fundamental to a sense of place: something that communities cherish in the face of change, and a tool for architects and developers as they achieve change and place further layers of activity and memory on top of all the others.

Recent and future development at King’s Cross, Nine Elms and Smithfield Market are reminders of how memory is inextricably linked to character and placemaking. They show how architects, planners and developers need to proceed with care: aware that carelessness can obliterate cherished memories of London’s places, and alert to opportunities to harness memory in positive ways.

How awesome is that? Memories, time and architecture. How do we make that into an event for the Festival? How do we incorporate the elements of play into the event, hopefully that could be for kids? Need to think and write a proposal for 300 words.

And hopefully find a venue and ask for permission to build on it for a while. Are there ways to find people to collaborate with?

If we could theme it around timber and its wear and tear in terms of remembrance? Temporary timber structure where the assembly and disassembly all becomes part of the architecture. Architecture is not just the construction of things but the destruction of things.

How do we make it interactive? How can the processes of play be participant in the processes of destruction? How do you take it apart? Could it be a puzzle where kids can take bits of the timber apart? Giant Jenga? Wood puzzle? But how can it be translated to the scale of architecture? What if I were to re-install it every night and every morning people could take it apart? What if the processes of destruction/taking apart is the architectural process? If memory talks about preservation, how do we create memory through destruction?

Memory creation is dependent on event, which is in turn, dependent on time. Persistence of memory depends on recollections, of which space can be a big contributor. Memory can be a direct or indirect experience.

Rural Urban Framework and the Architect’s Vernacular

Rural Urban Framework was awarded with the RIBA Emerging Architect of the Year award. Jonathan Bolchover and John Lin gave a talk at the RIBA today to talk about the projects that brought attention to the research/practice.

The talk raised several issues in my head.

  • The role of the architect in the particular context – involvement, power and responsibility
  • The longevity of projects and their rippling effect
  • The emulation of the Vernacular and its romantic preservation
  • Participation in the form of project implementation
  • The attitude of the architect in relations to the Vernacular villager.
  • The replicability of the project and the protection of the projects from the outer world
  • The limits of architecture as a valuable form, unable to provide solutions. It can only respond.

Will expand on these issues further when there’s time.

Carlo Scarpa (in Richard Murphy’s Lecture)


Here are some of the notes from the lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_78_KQZiP8:

  • Scarpa
    • Gave William Morris’ texts material
    • Scarpa is not an architect in training
    • His work (museum) was built over a very long time – a lot of attention to detail and material
    • He is a craftsman in terms of building, not a Modern architect
  • Venice’s buildings
    • Decay from the bottom up (not just from the top down)
    • Water against brickwork
    • Venetian solution: constantly stucco the buildings
    • Where one can see the traces of the various decades of stucco
    • Stucco is also a way of preserving the bricks
  • Scarpa draws attention to historical details that you have not noticed before
    • Geology – addiditive and subtractive (layering, erosion)
    • Have a material and then show you what it is made of by excavating into it by using niches
  • Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice
    • Delicacy of the handrail, the brass detail
    • Mosaic or terrazzo floor – to be flexible and damp proof
    • Details used to accentuate water entering into the building and the floating of materials
    • Winter: high tide in the morning (9am)
    • Entrance staircase is like stepping into a gondola
    • Lines the joints in gold to elaborate
    • Surface and syncopation
      • No measurement is the same as the neighbour
      • All elements are different
      • It is more interesting to have syncopations in the rhythms rather than a regular one
    • Relined damaged staircase – see the thinness of the new cover
  • Palazzo Abatellis
    • Thin layer of stucco peeled against the windows
    • Museum and leading people into the space
    • Statues and their orientation as a way to bring people into the space


  • Castelvecchio Museum, Verona
    • Pulls apart the building to show you where it had been before (4 layers of history)
    • Sound of water as a way to direct people
    • Small changes of level in the hedges – showing the passage of time
    • Eat up at the corners of the buildings to suggest that the walls are made up of laminates and planes (although they are solid)
    • Making a series of entrances to see the river at the back of the building
      • Progressive planes going back into the building
      • Taking a notch out of the fabric
      • Surface quality of the wall taking away from the actual wall like qualities of the way
      • Wall becomes a very precarious thin object
    • Materials become water
      • Floors flow into the water
      • Syncopation = time
      • Moments
    • Cutting the Napolean wall from the outside
      • You can actually see the thickness of the wall
    • Experiencing the thickness of the wall = time