Destroying or Preserving? An Honest Talk about Cultural Heritage

Is it possible to develop cities famous for their monuments without destroying cultural heritage? Is legislation in field of monument protection perfect in our country? These issues along with the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus and restoration of theatres will be discussed by participants of the section “Preservation of Cultural Heritage” at the VIII Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum.

A panel discussion “To Destroy, Not To Preserve/Not To Destroy, To Preserve” held in the General Staff Building of the State Hermitage on November 14 will be one of highlights of the section. It is offered to experts to write a comma in the title during a final discussion and final voting. The first part of the discussion is dedicated to the critical state of the historical part of St. Petersburg and scenarios of future developments. How can genius loci cities be preserved? Is it appropriate to consider demolition of structures in the historical centre of the city? Vladimir Shukhov, Chairman of DoCoMoMo Russia, the Russian branch of the International committee for documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement, will offer his insights in this topic. He will also bring up legislative proposals for establishment of new rules and terms regarding preservation of cultural heritage sites for discussion. In the second part of the discussion specialists, on the opposite, will announce arguments why historical legacy “shall not be destroyed”. The talk will be joined by representatives of government control and protection of historical and cultural monuments, as well as experts from Italy, France and Austria, representatives of cities famous for their monuments that have once faced the same need to reach a compromise for the dilemma: to preserve or to develop. 

This year the section “Preservation of Cultural Heritage” is headed by Vasily Pankratov, Vice-President of the Russian ICOM, Director of the Gatchina State History and Art Palace and Park Museum and Reserve. “Fundamental shifts in all areas of life determined by globalization and economic development, upcoming digital era and technological modernization open up new horizons, though require new approaches to everything, including heritage of countries and nations, at the same time,” he says. “Recent tragedies, such as fires at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro or Notre-Dame de Paris, make us reflect on what heritage means for the society, how thin the line that links us with the past is, how easily it can be cut off depriving the world of an important foothold”.

In 2019, the section “Preservation of Cultural Heritage” includes two panel discussions on monument reconstruction and their adjustment to new objectives. Creating a national program aimed at preservation of industrial architecture will be considered on November 14 during the discussion “Industrial Heritage: Value and Development” involving Miles Oglethorpe, President of high-profile TICCIH; Vasily Stoikov, Head of the Cultural and Historical Monuments Management Agency, and Margarita Stieglitz, Ph.D. in Architecture. Eminent architects whose restoration and reconstruction projects for theatrical venues have got mixed reactions of the society will come to discuss the future of theatres located in buildings that are also cultural heritage sites in the framework of the panel discussion “Theatre and Heritage”. They include Elisabetta Fabbri (restoration of the historical part of the La Scala Theatre in Milan, Italy) and Xavier Fabre (France), the author of the project of a new stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, as well as of a reconstruction project for the historical building of the theatre that has never been implemented. 

Is it worth speaking about Modernist architecture as some legacy that needs particular attention of historians? Conference “Heritage-Worth Age. Practice of Modernist Architectural Monument Protection” is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, one of the most influential schools of design and architecture of the 20th century. To commemorate the date restoration of the first buildings of the school has been completed in the native country of Bauhaus, in Dessau (Germany). Monika Markgraf, a researcher of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation who has successfully managed to have these buildings included in the World Heritage List, will speak at the Forum. Russian scientists will present researches on works of German followers of the Bauhaus in the USSR and the influence of German Modernism on the architecture of Russian Avantgarde in the beginning of the last century. 

The section “Preservation of Cultural Heritage” in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross will present the project “Humanitarian Photography in Modern Cultural Context” to journalists in the framework of a special press event. Rare shots including ones of 1877 depicting the Russo-Turkish War, and photos of prisoners of concentration camps released in 1945 will be demonstrated to the public for the first time. Witold Krassowski, a contemporary classical humanitarian photographer from Poland, will hold a workshop on November 16 in the framework of Public Flow events of the Forum. 

Registration for participants in the Professional Flow of the Forum will be open until October 20 on the website.

Registration to Public Flow events will open on October 1, and last until November 16. Admission to events of the Public Flow is by a free electronic ticket that can be downloaded in your Personal Account after registration on the website.