We are celebrating The International Day for Monuments and Sites with the opening of an exhibition that uses a set of past and present projects to highlight the importance of the cooperation needed to ensure that houses that have survived their original use can start living a new life. The exhibition presents renovated buildings in Slovenia, which are an indispensable part of the history of cities and towns and are the cornerstones of local or even national identity.
Through a series of past and current projects, the exhibition highlights the importance of cooperation required for houses that have outlived their original purpose to start a new life. Many of the buildings presented constitute an indispensable part of their town’s history and function as symbols of local and even national identity. The fact that they are alive and kicking today is the result of the collaboration of professionals from diverse walks of life, above all architects and conservators. Over the years, we have seen them tackle complex development planning projects to transform heritage buildings by collaging modern architecture over the layered substrates of previous historical epochs. Many renovation projects are thus still viewed as radical and controversial, even though they have shaped the history and development of architecture and cultural heritage protection. They have prominent protagonists behind them, from the architects Jože Plečnik, Anton Bitenc, and Vojteh Ravnikar, and the architects and conservators Boris Kobe, Marjan Mušič, and Oton Jugovec, to the conservators and art historians France Stele, Nace Šumi, and Ivan Sedej, as well as the conservator and ethnologist Franjo Baš.
The central part of the exhibition presents contemporary renovations, highlighting the issues that inevitably arise during building transformation. Renovations raise questions about preservation and heritage policies. They also reveal the contradiction inherent in architecture. Good architecture must be resilient and lasting. This is exactly why such buildings outlive, time and again, the purpose and use they were built for. With society and its needs continually and thoroughly changing, buildings eventually become unsuitable for the activities dictated by modern times.
Preservation of heritage buildings thus requires what appears impossible at first glance. Such buildings need strict protection—but they also require thorough modification in order to be able to live in the future. This is the test that anything historic has had to pass since the nineteenth century. Through their amazing histories, many old buildings have repeatedly mutated into something entirely different; they have changed their form while preserving their constituent historical layers on the outside. The processes involved in the transformation of any building are conflicting and complex, and the construction work required for them to be preserved is brutal. In order to survive, houses require partial demolition and adaptation. Behind these processes are the inevitable conflicts and dialogues between professionals and the public. This is why it is through renovations, more than through any other project, that architecture reflects its ability to negotiate and seek compromise.
The importance of building renovations today goes beyond mere preservation of immovable heritage. Well-planned renovation of heritage buildings can serve as an efficient tool for controlling environmental impacts and unnecessary urban expansion into the countryside. Reuse of existing buildings makes it possible to reduce the energy consumption required to build new ones and, most importantly, to slash the amount of construction waste generated.
Works presented: the City Museum in Auersperg Palace (Ljubljana), the library in Ravne Castle (Ravne na Koroškem), the Museum of Modern Art (Ljubljana), the Opera and Ballet Theatre (Ljubljana), Kino Park (Murska Sobota), the National Gallery (Ljubljana), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Mladika girls’ school (Ljubljana), the University of Primorska chancellor’s office in Armeria and Foresteria Palace (Koper), the Kino Šiška Urban Culture Center (Ljubljana), the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Hompoš Castle (Maribor), the Puppet Theatre at the Minorite monastery (Maribor), the museum and music school in the castle manor house (Ormož), the City Library in the Globus department store (Kranj), the Congress and Cultural Centre at the Dominican monastery (Ptuj), Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljana), Poljane High School (Ljubljana), the Vigor Sports Center at the Litostroj factory (Ljubljana), and Castle Park (Radovljica).
Prepared by a curatorial group consisting of Matevž Čelik, Natalija Lapajne, and Andraž Keršič, in close cooperation with conservator Marija Režek Kambič, the exhibition will be on show from April 18th to October 20th. MAO is holding the exhibition in collaboration with the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia.