The regions of Europe have an architectural heritage that is a thousand
years old; today’s challenge is to integrate this heritage into
contemporary life in a sustainable way.
From the first, architecture has always aimed to adapt to the
way of life of the society it serves, but few buildings have come
down to us intact and as they were originally designed. Since the
second half of the 19th century the speeding-up of history has
increased the rhythm of change and has led to continual restructuring,
extension and conversion.
These changes have brought about the use of more and more
innovative techniques, based on flexibility and reversibility, but the
weight of materials, the time needed to implement these programmes,
financial constraints and cultural compartmentalisation
have deferred many of these projects and left us with a museum
heritage frozen in time and quite unrelated to the original purpose
of the buildings.
What can be done with buildings looking for new use – a fortress
without an army, a château without a lord, a workshop without
an artisan, a factory without workers, or even an abbey without
monks or a church without a congregation?
The rise of a new national or international style or the creation
of innovative techniques does not necessarily damage the integrity
of a place. Modern techniques and materials, such as glass and
steel, have a transparency, lightness, flexibility and reversibility that
make them highly suitable for integrative undertakings.
The examples presented in this book all demonstrate a desire
to be considered as 'local' projects and to take their place in an
evolutionary interpretation of history. After more than a century of
conflicting debate on the subject of rehabilitation, it seems that the
aims expressed in the Charter of Venice have borne fruit by giving
rise to quality and personalised buildings that themselves are a
contribution to this debate.
Pierre Thiébaut studied architecture in France and in the USA
(where Louis Kahn was one of his professors), and is also a graduate
in planning of the Institut d’Urbanisme de Paris and the Ecole
Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris. Prior to his present
activity as a writer of articles and books on architectural rehabilitation
and teacher at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture
de Paris La Villette, he was an Architecte des Bâtiments de France
heading the Service Départemental du Patrimoine du Conseil Général
de Seine et Marne.