Unrestricted Heritage

Unrestricted Heritage

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Feb 16, 2012
  • comments

After four months running a design competition, you're introduced to some tricky predicaments by online inquirers. A competition host can't anticipate everything, and a competition like this one's bound to kick up grey areas and unwelcome parallels. We'd like to re-present some of the more beguiling questions coming in.

(New to the competition - Read up and Enlist)

the Confounder's Award
we can make tug boat that you need - Our company can make tug boat for your needed and we can make long term contract like 50 tug boats.... The time frame of our making tug boat is normal 8 months so for example if you order us 50 tug boat still we can make it in 8 months.

We've still working on a response to this one.

the People's Choice
Do I live in a Developing Nation as defined by the competition?

We refer to the lowest economic brackets of the World Bank - "low-income" and "lower-middle-income." These categories include 91 nations with a Gross National Index per capita less than $3975. Of course, if teams are able to pay the registration fee, they should - registration funds go into a kitty for the winning teams. But also no one will be turned away for lack of funds, regardless of national wealth.

the Tough Call
I was wondering If I can choose the Evin Prison as my site project. Evin prison is called "Evin University" due to the number of the intellectuals that the prison housed. It was told that the government had programmed to allocate this site to the Shahid Beheshti University before the green movement in Iran; however, apparently this alteration in the usage of this site has not happened yet and it is currently running as before.

It looks as though the prison is still in use, which unfortunately disqualifies it from being a viable site for the competition. If you can demonstrate that the prison is scheduled to close, then you'll be okay. Otherwise it wouldn't satisfy competition requirements as being a realizable proposal. Perhaps another prison site can symbolically adopt the message of reform - if all else fails, use ours.

the Unintended Obstruction
I work in heritage conservation for a state government in Australia and we often have to deal with ex-military sites that are being sold off by the Australian government. We consider it critical that a heritage assessment be made of each site so that the significant aspects of the site...can be conserved for the benefit of the community's understanding of its own history.... This is the approach to heritage...outlined in the Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter, which has been used around the world.

Military sites are invariably sites of the exercise of power and they are, almost always, of significance to the local, regional and sometimes national community in many different ways: historic, social even aesthetic. The significance doesn't have to be nice to be worth keeping; often it is important to keep reminders of unpleasant things (like Auschwitz or the Hiroshima Dome, both World Heritage listed). It seems that your competition doesn't include this critical phase - considering how to assess and retain such significance - in its conceptual underpinning.

Although it may not be emphasized, our Challenge Guidelines stipulate Contextual Appropriateness:

"4. Understands and responds to the global context of the Challenge and is at the same time relevant to the local context. A place-specific proposal with concern for identity creation and respect for the existing site, physical characteristics, local cultural and socioeconomic characteristics."

We feel this guideline discounts abusive or insensitive interpretations of a site. The competition in fact stresses the positive aspects of these bases on communities, including the socially-defining power the sites have, while also acknowledging their potential to have an even more harmonizing impact. Which is to say Guideline 4 may mention "identity creation" but it should be implied that "identity preservation" be an aim as well - for the indelible mark of history is made, a context in which we develop. For better or for worse. Old military sites present incredible opportunities to improve or heal a community that's been negatively affected by the presence of military sites.

There are many examples of successful projects that have taken this course of action:

Arsenal Music Center | Metz, Lorraine, France
Weapons arsenal turned concert hall and exhibition gallery. The realization of this structure was the subject of an international design competition. Named one of the 20 most beautiful concert halls in the world, this distinction qualifies the arsenal as an acoustic diamond. We can hear the Erudite music playing now...Read More
Chinati Foundation | Marfa, Texas, USA
Army base turned contemporary art museum. Donald Judd, established New York based artist, was initially drawn to Marfa for its natural beauty. It has since become one of the most important locations for permanent large scale installations done by a limited number of artists. Read More
Subic Bay | Luzon, Philippines
US naval base turned commercial zone and eco-tourist destination. fourth largest shipbuilding facility in the world. when the navy withdrew, 8,000 residents- led by mayor Richard Gordon- came together to protect and transform the area into a thriving tourist destination and major economic engine of the Philippines. Read More
Vauban | South of Freiburg, Germany
French military base turned car-free sustainable neighborhood. a civilian group pressed for eco-friendly site development and expanded public participation in the project while working with the city council to develop the master plan. Vauban showcases several sustainable innovations carried out at an impressive scale. Read More
Marine Mammal Center | Sausalito, California, USA
Anti-aircraft military launch facility turned marine mammal rescue center. have rescued and treated 16,000+ marine mammals since inception in 1975. with the recent renovation, the center has been able to teach nearly 30,000 students and adults every year about ocean conservation in first class facilities. Read More
Cranston Street Armory | Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Formerly used to house the RI National Guard, this armory has proudly and prominently served the state since inception. having held inaugural balls, political rallies and even circuses, it is asserted that returning the armory to functional use is critical to the continued revitalization of its surrounding community. Read More

The Burra Charter doesn't obstruct development, or the existence of these spaces (although some may warrant a good finger wagging). We'd like instead to see healthy heritage considerations of a site, speaking to Guideline 4.

In an effort to highlight the preservation/restoration aspects of working with military sites we'll be adding further information and links to heritage resources for competition entrants.

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National Representation - 13 February 2012 - 162 entries from 49 countries

US (19) : CA (5), DC(2), FL, IL (2), ID, MA, NJ, OR, TX(2), WA, WI, WY
Int'l: Algeria, Argentina (2), Bangladesh (5), Brazil(4), Canada, Chile, China (4), Colombia (5), Croatia, Ecuador, Egypt (2), France, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India (16), Indonesia (7), Iran (17), Italy (5), Lithuania, Kenya, Kosovo, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico (7), Mozambique, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania (2), Russia (2), Serbia (6), South Africa (4), South Korea (2), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Turkey (4), Ukraine (3), UK (6), Venezuela (4), Vietnam, Zimbabwe, unspecified (7)