|Institute for Preservation of Historical Monuments and Sites (ID)|
Institute for Preservation of Historical Monuments and Sites
The Institute for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and Sites was founded in 1972 and serves the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Department of Architecture as a research and educational unit. In this capacity, it continues a tradition prevalent in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, according to which architectural studies were offered almost exclusively at universities. In Switzerland, the Institute for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and Sites is the only one of its kind. This fact determines the type of research and education in which the Institute is involved. In view of the fact that architectural firms in the 19th and 20th centuries often did not properly care for monuments, and in light of the various ill-considered architectural and social contributions to the preservation of historical artefacts, the Institute takes special interest in its internationally accepted role as an active participant in the theoretical discussion about the role and function of monuments.
Questioning the role of monuments and sites in a culture that places importance on memories and the simultaneous virtual availability of its diverse cultural heritage, questioning the relevance of certain groups of monuments (‘inconvenient monuments’) and questioning the architectural role of the monument in new contexts and in new urban planning are all examples of the Institute’s process-oriented approaches. Based on the broad meaning of the term monument, the discussion about expanding preservation to include such areas as cultural landscape, surroundings shaped by history and the historical aspects of urban agglomerations and unexploited industrial areas also belong to this process of questioning.
The basic nature of these productive theoretical discussions, which the Institute has now made the focus of a continuing discourse, at least in German-speaking areas, is contrasted by its concrete, transdisciplinary participation in monument preservation both domestically and abroad. The Institute’s multidisciplinary staff comprising art historians, archeologists, architects, natural scientists and a surveyor makes it possible to develop implementable projects for specific questions relating to the practice, which are either of general importance or concern the specific qualities of a certain object. Accordingly, our staff produces hundreds of professional reports each working year, ranging from shorter reports based on clearly-founded scientific expertise to comprehensive reports designed to produce results, i.e. those from specialized studies (e.g. analysis of salt damages with appropriate suggestions for repair) written with the help of a network of other specialists, to the development of interconnected plans of action for complicated situations, e.g. for problematic areas such as ‘monument preservation and tourism’.
The inclusion of the Institute’s activities in practical monument preservation in Switzerland, Europe and beyond (e.g. Egypt, Cambodia) aids us in recognizing areas that require improvement and new topics for research. It also allows us to determine new points of focus and pursue communication possibilities in international education and continuing education.
At the moment we are working with, what is for us, the typical combination of practical experience and the developmental theory of the definition of sustainability. That theory could receive valuable impetus from the global ‘sustainable development’ discussion, which itself is enriched by philosophical and practical experiences for the proper management of the sociocultural resource monument.
The topics and results of these research activities can be transferred to the classroom without exception. In basic and graduate courses (with the elective ‘Monument Preservation’); in post-graduate courses accompanied by working experience; in bi-annual international specialist convention s; and in a permanent colloquium, ‘Special Questions about Historic Preservation’ held every 2 weeks for historic preservation in the profession, the students are imbued with the fruits of the Institute’s research. These students confirm the success of our typical combination of extreme thoroughness and radical attention to details.
We would like to make special mention of the successful integration of ‘Historic Preservation’ in the design courses offered at the architecture department. Numerous chairs for architectural design have in-volved the chair for historical preservation in choosing topics and projects – with great interest on the part of the students. Due to various contacts in the international discourse of urban development and architecture, the Institute enjoys a reputation of competency and credibility in this area.
Beside the numerous scholarly contributions to specialist publications, especially ‘Publications of the Institute for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and Sites at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich’, the Institute’s most important areas and research results have previously been available in 20 independent publications. In addition, the Institute works on an annual volume of the only bibliography of international literature on historic preservation worldwide.
Because of the global discussion about the role of the historical city, questions raised about improvements in suburban agglomerations, and the far-reaching consequences of sustainability, we expect an increased demand for the inclusion of our questioning processes, such as the shaping processes regarding ‘old and new’.
(Translation: Leah Crenwelge)
Prof. Dr. Georg Mörsch
Head of the Institute
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