The 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
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