The test of authenticity

Sites that are inscribed on the World Heritage Lists are expected to pass the 'test of authenticity' in relation to design, material, workmanship or setting. This demand is not only relevant to the moment of nomination, but remains always valid in the process of conservation and eventual change. Authenticity means that an historic building should be seen as a true testimony of the culture or traditions that it represents. The Nara conference of1994 indicated that while the word 'authentic' was not necessarily used in all languages, it was possible to find corresponding words to express the intent. The Nara Document on Authenticity has further emphasised that 'the diversity of cultures and heritage in our world is an irreplaceable source of spiritual and intellectual richness for all humankind' (Par. 5). Living cultures are subject to a continuous and dynamic process of change; the values and meanings that each culture produces need to be re-appropriated by each generation in order to become a tradition that can be handed over to the next. As a result of such cultural process, each moment on an historic timeline is characterised by its specificity, reflected in all that is conceived and built. Authenticity is expressed in the tangible and intangible aspects of a building, including historic changes and additions.

The Venice Charter invites us to safeguard historic structures 'no less as works of art than as historical evidence' (Art. 3). In relation to the artistic aspect, it would refer to the building as a genuine result of the human creative process. This can be verified in the quality of design and execution, but requires critical comparison with similar works of the same culture. Authenticity in this sense is at the root of the definition of the outstanding universal value. Another aspect of authenticity refers to the historic structure in its quality as historic document. Due attention is required to safeguard not only the quality and aesthetics of the surface, but also the material and structure, which document the workmanship and different phases of construction in the past.

The Venice Charter notes that the concept of monument 'applies not only to great works of art but also to more modest works of the past which have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time' (Art. 1).

Even if we may be able to build a replica of something that has been lost, the cultural meaning of the new work is different from the old. The Venice

Charter therefore recommends that any indispensable new work should be 'distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp' (Art. 9).

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