Tabula Plena (Roberts, 2016) has become the new framework for architecture in many parts in Europe: sites are full of existing buildings, systems, traces and remains, concepts and ideas, meanings and memories, that all have accumulated over time. At the same moment, the idea of unrestrained progress and renewal in which architects were trained during the 20th century and early 21th century has halted. As architects we are now part of a discipline in conflict with its own legacy (unrestrained progress and urban sprawl). We witness an urban palimpsest without a clear hierarchy (all values seem equal), and our mindset is oriented towards a future without a stable ‘longue durée’ (climate change).The safe realm of the Curated Distance between architecture and conservation is questioned. Architects are prompted to work across the fields of architecture, preservation, urban planning, and landscape design. Against this new background, one can well ask if the classic conservation movement as it evolved from the 18th century cannot be considered as concluded, and whether the idea of heritage should not be redefined to the environmental sustainability of social and economic development within the overall cultural and ecological situation on earth (Jokiletho, 1999). The paper wants to explore these questions from an architectural point of view as practising architect in the heritage sector (lens). How could we integrate the endless growing history of landscapes and places, of building and design traditions, of materials and ideas within the new architectural frame of reference, oriented towards change? Why could a biographic architecture (deep site learning, associative exploring and crafting) produce relevant results? The paper is related to the ongoing PhD research ‘Revalue’. This research (2021-2024) is inspired by both the heritage design practice of the author (www.annoarchitecten.be) and the master thesis design studios ‘heritage design’ and ‘sustainable renovation’ (at the department architecture of the university of Leuven, Belgium)
Stijn Cools studied engineering sciences and architecture in Leuven (Belgium, 2003) and Ferrara (Italy, 2002). He also holds a master in conservation of Monuments and Sites from the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation (KU Leuven, 2006). In 2008 he founded the (national) renown practice aNNo architects (www.annoarchitecten.be Ghent, B). The studio operates on the border of architecture and heritage preservation. Since 2017, Stijn Cools is also a visiting assistant professor ‘Heritage and Design’ at the department of Architecture of the University of Leuven (Belgium). In the master architecture studios he supervises design and master thesis projects dealing specifically with sustainable renovation and adaptation. In his ongoing doctoral thesis (2020-2024, supervisor prof. dr. Thomas Coomans and prof. dr. Harold Fallon) he studies ways in which the curated distance between architecture and heritage can be explored by questioning the boundaries of the ‘heritage imaginaries’.