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The Venice Charter Revisited conference 3-5 November 2006, Venice Italy Venice gondolas Quick links:
Book 2009  ¦   Venice Declaration 2007  ¦   Conference 2006

Programme   ¦   Accommodation   ¦   Travel  ¦   Cities of Stone linked event
English  ¦   Italiano

Introduction

INTBAU's 2006 conference was for academics, practitioners, planners, historians, amateurs, and those working in public agencies, and all others interested in any aspect of conservation or heritage.   The conference, held in Venice from 2-5 November 2006, examined the following four conference themes:

  1. Situated the Venice Charter in the context of its times and examine the text; and
  2. Examined the range of conservation philosophies and architectural responses that characterised conservation before the Venice Charter; and
  3. Heard contemporary case studies of the Venice Charter in operation around the world, in a variety of cultural contexts; and
  4. Drafted a policy for reconstructions and for traditional architecture and urbanism in historic areas.

Flyer

Download the conference flyer here in low resolution (PDF, 100Kb) or high resolution (PDF, 3.8 Mb) versions now!

Introduction: the ICOMOS Venice Charter

The Venice Charter is a remarkable document that sets out to define the common responsibility of nations to safeguard cultural heritage for future generations.

Venice

Drafted by delegates from places including Peru and Mexico, Tunisia, France and Italy, and finally written by two Belgians and an Italian, the Charter emphasises that each country is responsible for applying the plan within the framework of its own culture and traditions, in "the full richness of their authenticity".

The breadth of the consensus achieved is impressive, and the Charter has been of inestimable value in the conservation of cultural heritage the world over.   It became the founding document of ICOMOS (the International Conference on Monuments and Sites), and was later adopted by UNESCO, (the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization).   Today it provides the fundamental reference for conservation policy for the 191 UNESCO member states. Right: Image by Victor Deupi 2006

The Venice Charter followed a series of charters on conservation that appeared in the inter-war and post-war periods.   In 1931, the First International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments was held in Athens.   The Athens Charter produced at that event set out to proscribe the popular 'integrative' restoration epitomised by the work of Viollet-le-Duc and his contemporaries, preferring instead an approach that respected each successive previous intervention, and encouraging a view of old buildings as historical documents.   Viewed as such, 'historic' buildings could be studied and admired but never copied, for fear of 'falsifying' history.   This modernist concept was promptly incorporated into the Italian Norme per il restauro dei monumenti of 1932, and inspired Le Corbusier to write a text on conservation following CIAM's fourth congress in 1933.

Post-war reconstruction in the period 1945-1955 was nevertheless characterised by much reconstruction and by large-scale restorations of damaged cities such as Warsaw, Gdansk, Blois and Vicenza.   Concern at the scale of war damage prompted the Hague Convention of 1954 that produced the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, issued in 1956.   A year later, a suggestion was made to update the Athens Charter, which lead to the Second International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments, held in Venice in May 1964.   The Venice Charter it produced reflects, in its 16 paragraphs, the political and cultural history of the tumultuous mid-20th century.

The conference

The 2006 conference of the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture & Urbanism (INTBAU) examined philosophies of conservation, scrutinise the Venice Charter in the context of its times, and heard case studies of the Charter as it has applied in the 42 years since its adoption.

Venice

The post-war period has in recent years been subject to considerable historical research. We now know, for instance, that the West covertly funded cultural institutions with the aim of promoting modernism and creating a clear contrast with the Soviet bloc's preference for social realism and traditional architecture.

Modernism was presented as democratic and free, and traditional art as repressive and totalitarian. The effect was to polarise public taste for a generation or more.   This is the milieu that produced the Venice Charter. Right: Image by Matthew Hardy 2006

INTBAU believes that the Charter's insistence that buildings and settings be seen as historical documents that must not be 'falsified' perhaps reflects a common post-war modernist belief in the 'end of history', and that the world was different and new.   Since its inception, particular clauses of the Venice Charter have been used to justify and to require modernist interventions in traditional buildings and places.   In recent years, these clauses have become a crucial regulatory block used in development control against any form of traditional design.   INTBAU sees this as an undesirable situation that privileges the voice of the trans-national class of modernist architects and their multinational patrons over those of local peoples and traditional cultures.

INTBAU seeks to advance a pluralist view that would allow considerations of cultural continuity, tradition and collective memory to over-ride the Venice Charter's requirement that buildings be treated as historic documents.   We seek not to replace the Charter, but to supplement it.   We are in contact with ICOMOS with regard to our proposals.

The conclusion of the conference will propose a charter for traditional architecture and urbanism in historic contexts, including the reconstruction of destroyed buildings, and new buildings on infill and other sites.

Conference themes

The conference examined aspects of the following four conference themes:

1. To situate the Venice Charter in the context of its times and to examine the text:

  • Who, in Frances Stonor's terms, 'paid the piper' to produce the Venice Charter?
  • What prompted participants to attend the 1964 conference?
  • How does the Venice Charter compare with other charters produced in the mid-20th century?
  • Who drafted the charter and what were their influences?
  • Is there in Robert Adam's words a 'hidden modernism' in the language of the Venice Charter, and if so how does it reflect its times?
  • How does it stand up as a piece of literature?
  • How have the successor charters (Burra, Krakow, Xi'an etc) and other documents (Amsterdam Declaration of the Council of Europe, US Secretary of the Interior's Standards etc) modified the original language and themes?

2. To examine the range of conservation philosophies and architectural responses that characterised conservation before the Venice Charter:

  • How did architects and planners approach building in historic areas before the Venice Charter?
  • How were cities rebuilt after the two world wars, and what governed decisions about whether damaged buildings were rebuilt, improved, or replaced?
  • When and by whom were contextual, contrasting or modernist designs used in building in historic environments?
  • How were architects and planners influenced by prevailing political situations?
  • Can architectural styles be considered fascist, communist, traditionalist or modernist, and if so how are these 'isms' expressed in architectonic terms?

3. To hear contemporary case studies of the Venice Charter in operation around the world, in a variety of cultural contexts:

  • How is the Venice Charter used to regulate development by the signatory countries?
  • Are there cases where the Charter is used to regulate architectural style?
  • Are there cultural variations in the interpretation of the Charter?

4. To draft a supporting policy for reconstructions and for traditional architecture and urbanism in historic areas:

  • Suggestions for a new document were incorporated into a draft final proposal for final editing after the conference.

Venice Image by Matthew Hardy 2006

Speakers

This event brought together leading speakers on conservation from around the world, including:

  • Professor A. G. K. Menon, India - Author, "INTACH Charter for the Conservation of Unprotected Architectual Heritage and Sites in India", 2004
  • Professor Paolo Marconi, Italy - Author, "Il recupero della bellezza", 2005
  • Prof. W. Brown Morton III, USA - Co-Author, "Secretary for the Interior's Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings," 1977
  • Robert Adam, UK - Architect and Chair of INTBAU
  • Amund Sinding-Larsen, Norway - President, ICOMOS Norway
  • Steven Bee, UK - Director of Planning & Development, English Heritage
and many others.

Simultaneous translation from English to Italian and Italian to English was provided for all the sessions of the conference.

Venues

The main conference venue was the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, located in Campo de la Tana, Castello, Venice.   The second venue for breakout sessions on Friday was the Biblioteca Dante Aligheri, just 50m across the square from Teatro Piccolo Arsenale.

The two venues were just behind the Museo Storico Navale (navy historical museum) and close to the Arsenale vaporetto (water bus) stop.  For the best online map we can find of the location click here.   Campo ("Cpo") de la Tana is just above the Museo Storico Navale, and the Teatro Piccolo is just left of the Corderie.

Teatro Piccolo Arsenale is a comfortable modern theatre converted from one of the great 17th century warehouses of the Venetian Navy.   It is 5 minutes walk away from the linked exhibition Cities of Stone and next door to the Architecture Biennale exhibition (EUR 13 entry) with its cafe, bar and bookshop.

Key dates

Booking opens - 4 September
Conference - Thursday 2 November (morning) - Saturday 4 November (conference dinner)
Conference tours - Sunday 5 November (morning)

INTBAU

The International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture & Urbanism is a rapidly-growing international Charity (registered in the UK No. 1103068) that supports research and education in, and understanding of, traditional building, architecture and urbanism.   We have over 1,100 members worldwide, with chapters in India, Germany, Romania, Scandinavia and Nigeria, and others in formation in North America and Oceania.   You can read more about INTBAU here and the INTBAU Charter is available in 21 languages.

Event supporters

We acknowledge the gracious support of our major conference supporters, the Politecnico di Bari Department of Architecture and La Biennale di Venezia. Venice conference supporter logos

Conference academic committee

The conference academic committee comprises, in alphabetical order:

Dr Victor Deupi (USA)
Mr Vikas Dilawari (India)
Mr Audun Engh (Norway)
Professor Pier Giorgio Gerosa (Switzerland)
Professor Claudio d'Amato Guerrieri (Italy)
Dr Matthew Hardy (UK) - Committee Secretary
Professor Jean-François Lejeune (USA)
Dr Ian Lochhead (New Zealand Aotearoa)
Professor Paolo Marconi (Italy)
Assistant Professor Ettore Maria Mazzola (Italy)
Professor A. G. K. Menon (India)
Professor Attilio Petruccioli (Italy)
Professor Gabriele Tagliaventi (Italy)

Suggested Reading

Robert Adam, Conservation and Planning Culture, in Planning in London, 2005 (PDF, 44kB)
Robert Adam, Hidden Modernism in the World of Audit, INTBAU Essays Vol I No. 1, 2004
Stephen Dykes Bower, Conservation: What It Should Mean, Speech to the Art Workers Guild, London 31st October 1974
Australia ICOMOS, Burra Charter, 1988/1999
English Heritage, Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance, Draft for Comment, 2006 (PDF, 134kB)
ICOMOS, Washington Charter (on historic towns), 1987
ICOMOS, Nara Document on Authenticity, 1994
ICOMOS, Charter on Built Vernacular Heritage, 1999
Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage, Charter for the Conservation of Unprotected Architectual Heritage and Sites in India, 2004 (pdf, 184kB)
International Conference on Conservation Kraków 2000, Charter of Kraków, 2000
Paolo Marconi, Il recupero della bellezza, Skira, Milano 2005
Paolo Marconi & Claudio d'Amato, Commentary on the ICOMOS Venice Charter, 2006
Ettore Mazzola, A Counter History of Modern Architecture: the case of Rome, Alinea Edizioni, Florence 2005
Michael Petzet, Principles of Preservation: An Introduction to the International Charters for Conservation and Restoration, 40 Years after the Venice Charter, ICOMOS, 2004
Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, Granta Books, London 2000
United States of America, Secretary for the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation, 1967
United States of America, Secretary for the Interior's Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings, 1977

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