Ideology or Iconography: Formative Architecture as a Socialist/Modernist Legacy
Graham Bell BA(Hons), BArch(Hons) RIBA FRSA
This presentation challenges us about how we deal with recent history as expressed in its architecture. It is about the power of choice, and its consequences.
The recent past is always the most difficult to evaluate. History is impersonal but our world is shaped by personal influences. Do we celebrate what our grandparents’ generation did because they built it? Can we be truly objective? The recent past is not the domain of unknown ghosts of history but of living memories, values and sentiments – real people, real relationships, real reactions. It is like a lava field where the rock is still being formed, the heat still in it, the mysteries and risks still unpredictable. It is where imagination is still becoming real.
Churchill said, ‘history will be kind to me for I shall write it.’ That is true of all of us. But what shall we write about times that were, for us, formative, and perhaps still raw? Are we qualified to decide what survives or should be condemned?
Society creates its own history. That means you too, in the choices you make. If history is the storyline of society, you are editors of the chapter written by your grandparents and parents; what you underline or strike out determines their legacy.
In this, the centenary of the creation of Bauhaus, 50 years since the death of its founder Gropius, and 30 years since the seismic changes to Europe, we will consider the expression of society in transition through its architecture. But this is not a retrospective, a journey into the past; it is about the value judgements which inform choices and ultimately your role in editing history – how you choose to pass on the narrative to the next generation.
For central and eastern Europe, the story took some unexpected turns. Do we tear from the book the pages about the twentieth century? Do we reminisce for times when architecture was bold and even assertive? Or do we see all with an unbiased perspective?
The lecture will consider how architectural eras or styles provide a framework for cultural significance and inform action based on values. It will illustrate international methodology with reference to typology, national building collections, technology and materiality, and case studies where the dilemma of difficult decisions dictates how recent architectural history is erased, represented or celebrated.
Graham Bell is on the board of Europa Nostra and a member of its expert missions with the European Investment Bank Institute for the 7 Most Endangered programme. He was
UK National Co-ordinator for 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage. As Director of the North of England Civic Trust (NECT), he leads a project organisation that has rescued and reused properties ranging from a neo-classical country house to a former town hall and Victorian model farm. He set up the Hungarian Renaissance Foundation (MRA) based on NECT. He is a member of ICOMOS Hungary and a research fellow at the Institute of Advances Studies, Kőszeg. He has been a course tutor in cultural heritage management at postgraduate level in the UK, Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia.