Counterpreservation : decrepitude and memory in the architecture of Berlin since 1989 / by Daniela Sandler.
This dissertation proposes the idea of counterpreservation to understand architectural and cultural projects in Berlin since 1989. Counterpreservation is the attempt to express a dynamic view of history that incorporates multiple readings and time periods. Instead of restoring buildings to their original state, counterpreservation incorporates changes and dilapidation. This multilayered, open-ended approach to history is related to Germany's complex and fraught relationship to memory. It is also a reaction to gentrification in central Berlin, where decayed façades make a stand against the commercial beautification of urban space. This dissertation first explains counterpreservation with relation to James Young's discussion of countermonuments, and John Ruskin's writings on architectural history and preservation. After discussing theories of gentrification and the reconstruction of Berlin since 1989, the dissertation presents two case studies. The Haus Schwarzenberg is a cultural center managed by an artists' cooperative in the central district of Mitte. The center is housed in a run-down building with a crumbling façade that the coop refuses to clean or restore. The second case study is Daniel Libeskind's reurbanization plan for an area formerly used as barracks for Nazi officers who manned the adjacent Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oramenburg, a town north of Berlin. Libeskind's design proposes new facilities for cultural and social development and a memorial that would submerge the remains of the barracks under water. The water would transform the site into an active ruin, underscoring the dynamic nature of memory, the mediation between past and present, and the possibility of growth and remembrance.
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