The Matter Of Authenticity In Intervention

The legitimacy of the restorative intervention in historical buildings was debated since the very beginning of restoration theories. Authors like Boito stated as a fundamental concept the distinction of the new parts from the existing ones, as well as emphasizing the prudence of limiting intervention actions to the minimum required. All material to be added or replaced should have a different feature, in the type of material to be used, or should bear a plaque, indicating the successive architectural alterations. The new parts to be inserted should exhibit simple lines, being perfectly balanced with the ancient building.

Later on, the Venice Charter has established that the new elements ought to differ from the existing parts, and the same criterion was sustained by the Italian Charter of Restoration.

This differentiation theory was strengthened in later congresses, aiming at the visibility of the interventions to be carried out, refusing the idea of utilisation material and techniques similar to the existing ones, preventing historical fraud.

In his book Theory of Restoration written in 1963, Brandi (2004) mentions the judgement of counterfeit. The author refers to the essential attributes the subject should possess, but is not able to earn: the falseness is in the judgement and not in the purpose. One of two identical objects may be considered a fake, according to its intention.

Pursuant to him, the distinction between copy, imitation and counterfeit is not in the specific diversity of the production methods, but otherwise. Hereupon, he points out two situations in which an intervention could be considered a counterfeit:

(1) Production of a purpose with the specific intention of deceiving either the period, the material coherence or the author, or

(2) Diffusion of an object, not necessarily intended to deceive as if it were an authentic work, from that period; by non-authentic authors and producers different from the genuine one, and made out of distinct materials. In other words, it has been created with no counterfeit intention, but meant to be divulged as the original.

According to Brandi, to get the counterfeit judgement, it is necessary to prove the swindle.

This issue has been developing, oftentimes being debated in international congresses and seminars. In Japan, November 1994, the Nara Conference, based upon the Venice Charter, has discussed the authenticity issue linked to the intrinsic heritage value and the cultural identity of the region in which it is placed.

Following the international stream, Brazil has hosted the V Regional Meeting of ICOMOS in 1995. A regional document on authenticity of the southern cone countries was the result of this assembly. Brasilia Charter established that authenticity of values is manifest, supported and preserved in the truthfulness of the heritage that we receive and transmit. Intervention must rescue building or site character, underlining its authenticity without transforming its essence and balance, avoiding extraordinary actions and enhancing its values. The Charter avows the quality of the treatments as fundamental and all new elements introduced must be both reversible and harmonious with the whole.

The issue of authenticity is rooted in the values attributed to the heritage. The judgement of value was broadly discussed in "The modern cult of monuments" by Riegl in 1903. This matter was the main point of Nara Conference, in 1994, related to scientific studies on cultural heritage, conservation and restoration planning and procedures for the World Heritage Convention.

The Nara Document claims that the authenticity emerges as the chief criterion when it comes to values attribution. "The understanding of authenticity plays a fundamental role in all scientific studies of the cultural heritage, in conservation and restoration planning". (

The interventions carried out in the University Palace of UFRJ - Federal University of Rio de Janeiro will be herein analyzed based on these concepts, more specifically the floor restoration of three rooms located in this building.

Figure 1. University Palace. Photo: Soares, B., 2007.

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