Evironmental cha(lle)nges in the twenty-first century: authenticity in transition

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Since the 1960s, principles of architectural conservation have been established in doctrinal documents issued by UNESCO, ICOMOS and the Council of Europe. These documents initially focused on the preservation and safeguarding of the authentic material evidence of historic environments. This objective was considered to be achievable when the conservation of the cultural good, i.e., when the transitional stage from past to present as established in guiding drawings and texts, implied minimal change of the historic fabric. The Nara Document on Authenticity (1994) and the Nara +20 (2015) are the fundamental documents to understand the development of the concept of authenticity. Architectural conservation practice aims to transform old, and sometimes obsolete spaces, into contemporary used places, within the above-mentioned framework of change, establishing exciting challenges to architects’ professional ethics regarding what authenticity is and what the limits of change are. Considering that architectural conservation inevitably requires that changes to the built environment take place, the concept of authenticity is perceived to be at a transitional status in the twenty-first century, shifting from a unique material perspective to embrace environmental and sensorial experiences of communities, which trigger meanings and ascribe significance to heritage places. This presentation will approach the methodology applied in the rehabilitation of historic buildings in Lisbon - Portugal by the office vmsa architects, focusing on the specific challenges faced in two recently awarded interventions, in architectural conservation (Passos Manuel Lyceum – Europa Nostra Award, 2013) and in restoration (Quinta Alegre - National Prize for Urban Conservation 2016) categories. The aim is to question whether definitions of authenticity have been relevant to architectural conservation practice, its challenges and changes, in the Portuguese context of the twenty-first century. The interventions, in a historic secondary school building and in an historic manor house, demonstrate the importance given to authenticity, not just in the material perspective but already shifting to a social approach to conservation by considering the communities’ values, present as well as future, in the establishment of design strategies. It is concluded that established definitions have adapted to the development of the definition of cultural values and authenticity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationISUEP2018 Uluslararasi Kentlesme Ve Çevre Sorunlari Sempozyumu Degisim/Dönüsüm/Özgünlük | ISUEP2018 International Symposium on Urbanization and Environmental Issues change / transformation / originality - Conference Proceeding [28-30, June, 2018]
EditorsBerrin Akgün Yüksekli
Place of PublicationBalikesir, Turkey
PublisherTürk Mühendis ve Mimar Odalari Birligi (TMMOB)
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventInternational Symposium on Urbanization and Environmental : Issues change / transformation / originality - Anadolu University, Eskişehir, Turkey
Duration: 28 Jun 201830 Jun 2018


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Urbanization and Environmental
Abbreviated titleISUEP2018


  • Historic built environment
  • Authenticity
  • Portugal
  • Design practice
  • Architectural conservation


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