The coming alteration of a modernistic building in the centre of Athens (Doxiadis’ Office Building) is raising questions about keeping the building’s integrity intact or not. In my opinion it rather raises crucial issues about the way we are debating with our past. Becoming free from dogmatic and stylistic movements, we have at the same time an inherent limitation, that of working into a shifting economy. But we do always need to make a statement when interpreting and interacting with our past.
We could argue that a historic building is not a mere structure. It is a folder which contains its values (aesthetic, historic, value of authenticity, value of technological achievements, and value of its materiality). Not only is it a kind of database but also the building’s context. Scope of historic preservation is to unleash this folder and question it 1. Consequently a prosperous debate exists between architects, archaeologists, preservationists, and social groups concerning the necessity of the structure’s existence. Architect places himself at the prolific position to start his research without having any prerequisites, instead of arguing about its values. This procedure involves his projection into the future and seeing past as it was the present. He may question historic integrity by removing parts until he finds something unfamiliar 2. The difference between the original building and the documented intervention to it, is the stamp of duration, which situates architect in history. This is the role of an avant-garde preservation.
On the contrary, when architect takes no advantage of questioning history, he just takes a position away from it, therefore he follows unquestioned preservation regulations. He has lost the opportunity to argue and make a statement. This is what characterizes the proposed intervention to Doxiadis’ Office Building. Without making a clear statement, the architect seems to struggle with a concept, an idea in order to reason his approach. Thus by using a conventional vocabulary, he introduces a conventional design. The architect then comes up with some sophisticated scapes, contended glimpses of nothingness, trapped in a tired elitism. It is a matter of a cutting-edge lifestyle rather than a cutting-edge statement.
1. Mark Wigley, Unleashing the Archive, Future Anterior, Volume 2, Number 2, Winter 2005
2. Jorge Otero-Pailos, The Contemporary Stamp of Incompleteness, Future Anterior, Volume 1, Number 2, Fall 2004