The Fragile Monument

TFM_coverThe Fragile Monument by Thordis Arrhenius is a study of the discourse of conservation and its effect on the

notion and role of the monument in contemporary Western society. Through a revisionist

account of the history of conservation, the book explores how the monument has been

transformed from an object that originally communicated permanence to an object that

is perceived as fragile and in need of protection.

The argument put forward is that the expansion and popularisation of conservation

is bound to a narrative of loss and danger that reveals a paradoxical relationship

between destruction and preservation. In a series of case studies, the book shows how

spatial devices have been used to negotiate this paradox and how this use of space

has contributed to the defining of the monument as an object of conservation.

Throughout its history, conservation has been surrounded by a polemic dominated by

concepts of authenticity, origin and authorship. By studying that debate in relation to the

case studies, The Fragile Monument adumbrates the implications these concepts carry

with them, both for the discipline of conservation and for the discourse of architecture

as a whole.

Identifying and examining particular ‘sites of conflicts’ where critical uncertainty,

ambivalence, and heated debates have surrounded the ‘object’ of restoration, The

Fragile Monument contributes significantly to expanding and shifting architectural

discourse into a direction of crucial relevance today.


“In this polemical reading of the history of Western conservation, all certainty about the

nature of monuments and their cultural role is thrown into question. Arrhenius links the

emergence of conservation to a fundamental rethinking of the meaning of monuments,

from symbols of the West’s cultural strength to emblems of anxiety about the fragility of

modernity as a cultural project of enlightenment.”

Jorge Otero-Pailos, Associate Professor of Historic Preservation, Columbia University



Paperback • ISBN 978 1 907317 47 7

RRP £19.95 / €23.95 / $29.95

28 x 23 cm / 9 x 11 in

50 colour and b/w ills • 159 pages

For review copies or further

information please contact:

Diana Adell






Originally posted Aug 15, 2012. Latest revision May 3, 2021.

© OCCAS 2012. All rights reserved.