Machado Silvetti

Machado Silvetti

Boston, MA


The Architecture of Cultural Heritage

By jeffry_136
Aug 4, '16 4:33 PM EST

Recently Jeffry Burchard and Patrick Ruggiero sat down with Jorge Silvetti to discuss the firm’s approach to Cultural heritage. Here is a portion of that conversation.


JB: Preservation. Restoration. Conservation – What are these? How do they relate to Cultural Heritage and what does it mean for an architect?

JS: Okay—first of all I think there is a meaning that each word has that is self-evident. However the question comes up because obviously they do have ambiguous applications and people use the terms in different ways. This is such a fluid field of related activities and there are no very clear boundaries between them. And in the end, for me, each case is different.

Perhaps this is because we have had the luck to work on extreme cases like the Getty Villa in which we didn’t know how to define what it was that we were doing, to cases that are very specific like Menokin where we do have an actual ruin of a valuable historic building that must be conserved, maintained, and recreated in different degrees. Really, every case is a different case and for each we have to define our approach. And this is how we have been proceeding in practice.

Having said that, restoration is the one that is the simplest - in which something wants to be brought to its original state. Of course, that is hardly achievable - because the context has always changed and nothing could become exactly the same again. However, technically speaking sometimes it is possible to restore something to an original state. Conservation implies an approach that requires a strategy about what it is to be conserved and what things need in fact to be modified in order to produce conservation.

Sometimes the types of original materials that are involved cannot be conserved because such material has a lifetime. So you have to approach conservation in a different ways. For instance, sometimes you have to bring things up to code and this always requires a modification so that requires an idea and then a strategy on how to articulate architecturally that idea into something new that also conserves.

Follow this link for the entire interview: