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Completing the Incomplete: How have attitudes towards ruins, developed from Romanticism to the present day, affected ruin treatment in contemporary German architecture?

Adam Jones Manchester School of Architecture, 2014

Completing the Incomplete: How have attitudes towards ruins, developed from Romanticism to the present day, affected ruin treatment in contemporary German architecture? Manchester School of Architecture Manchester University Manchester Metropolitan University Fifth Year Academic Dissertation Author: Adam Jones Supervisor: John Lee

Acknowledgements In order to undertake this research I received guidance from a number of parties: Dr Leandro Minuchin and acting supervisor/tutor John Lee. I would also like to pass my gratitude on to Nina Helten of David Chipperfield Architects for her assistance and guidance. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without permission of the copyright holder, the author.

Front Cover - Fig. 01: The Neues Museum

ABSTRACT Our attitude towards ruins has changed through time. From the slow decaying ruins which brought about Romantic admiration and a craze for the picturesque, to the dramatic destructions of World War 2 which prompted rapid reconstruction, ruins have always held a moral, emotional and aesthetic fascination in society. However, rather than ruins as objects to be admired or demolished, recent architectural projects have demonstrated that ruins can be meaningfully integrated into our contemporary built environment. Through an historical and chronological framework I will investigate the ruin and its associations from ‘decay’ to ‘reconstruction’, providing an understanding of the ruin as a process. Through this lens I investigate three contemporary architectural projects in Germany, uncovering what attitude(s) exist there and the wider architectural potentials ruins provide us.

“From the remains of war emerges a pale reflection of the past. Molded and cast to the smallest detail, it is at once familiar and alien.� - Caption from the German Pavilion of the 2012 Venice Biennale

CONTENTS 01 Introduction 7 02 Thematic Overview: Ruins 8 02.1 Decay and Time 9 02.2 Ruination 11 02.3 Experience 13 02.4 Perception and Meaning 19 02.5 Reconstruction 27 03 Empirical Chapters 31


“Creative Reconstruction” - The Alte Pinakothek, Munich



“Augmented Rebuilding” - The Neues Museum, Berlin



“Mimicry and Paradox” - Museum of Natural History, Berlin


04 Conclusion 53 Bibliography 54

Fig. 02: Tintern Abbey




Ruins have held a moral, emotional and aesthetic fascination throughout history in art, literature, aesthetics and architecture (J B Jackson, 1980). Historically, this fascination stemmed from a ruin’s ambiguous nature as half building, half nature, and its physical manifestation of transience. These qualities were balanced with a ruin’s allegorical character and their ability to generate mood. My own interest stirred from a visit to Tintern Abbey in 2013 (Fig. 02). I recall my awe at how much life these functionless masses of stone had - how so much atmosphere could be created by so little. Its uselessness was its power, and it was an architecture I could connect and empathise with. An excerpt from Denis Diderot’s Le Salon de 1767 encapsulated what I felt: “If the site of a ruin seems perilous, I shudder. If I feel safe and secure there, I’m freer, more alone, more myself, closer to myself.” - Diderot, 2011, p22

Since that moment my interest has intensified through research and lived experience. Christopher Woodward’s book In Ruins provided an invaluable overview of the subject and uncovered opportunities for deeper research. Through this dissertation I have begun to appreciate the comprehensive nature of ruins and I hope this work serves as a catalyst for additional future research.




The following chapters discuss ruins through the chronology of ‘ruination’ and the associations that accumulate as a result. The chapters highlight key moments in ruin discourse and ideas, borrowing from writers, artists, thinkers and architects past and present. Through this I hope to present to the reader a broad yet enlightening overview of ruins and a framework to discuss the empirical research.

Fig. 03: Hitler’s Atlantic Wall




“The first attraction of architectural decay is the seductive stillness she describes” - Woodward, 2002, p37

A ruin is a product of decay brought about through destruction or neglect. Romanticism of the 18th century found pleasure in the imperceptible ‘accidental’ ruin, a product of slow decay by nature into a work of nature itself. The more abrupt annihilation brought about by warfare has provided equal significance in ruin discourse. Crucially, the decay of buildings is not just a loss of physical material but a loss of the familiar, through which associations form, often paradoxical; “There is both a horror and a fascination at something so apparently permanent as a building, something that one expects to outlast many a human span, meeting an untimely end” (Bevan, 2007, p7). We can value the aesthetic of decay because it represents the passage of time - in fact we invent the notion of “ruin” because we recognise our own comparable transience (Beasley-Murray, 2010, p212). Furthermore, despite decay ruins tend to outlive us and this forces us to contemplate our own future, placing the beholder in a unique situation in relation to buildings and time and according to Gotthard Booth, “nothing gives man fuller satisfaction than participation in processes that supersede the span of individual life” (Pallasmaa, 2002, p35). Ruins are places where all times are compressed and perceived at once; a readable past, an unavoidable physical present, and an imagined future. A ruin’s exhibition of physical rawness and authenticity allows a proximity and legibility for the beholder, allowing us to understand ruins in a continuum of time (Pallasmaa, 2012, p34). Natural materials retain a hardness affording it a certain timelessness, whilst patina expresses age and history, vital in our appreciation of ruins. Contemporary materials such as steel and glass, almost immune from decay, allows us to avoid weathering through designing for ‘ageless perfection’, maintenance, conservation or replacement. Furthermore, our recent lust for architectural ‘surface’ and ‘image’ over ‘substance’ and ‘meaning’ maybe prevents us from engaging meaningfully with the decay of buildings and the potentials of ageing. Joseph Rykwert notes that “questions of style and ornament, which may seem harmless, become dangerously misleading when they stop at the surface” (Merrick, 2014, p52). Concrete, a material considered both ancient and futuristic occupies an unusual territory in ruin discourse with relation to time. Photographer Ianthe Ruthven discusses the importance of decay in her fascination with the ruins of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall that litter the Normandy coast (Fig. 03), an epitomisation of concrete’s ambiguous character: “The allure of the ruins for me as a photographer is essentially, and first and foremost, texture... The concrete erodes, it becomes subject to chemical changes over the decades. Also, nature, and the effects of nature gradually breaking down these monstrous monuments of evil intent” - Financial Times Video, 2014


In Sverre Fehn’s project at Hedmark, the ruin is acknowledged as an object in a continuum of time, not a preserved and frozen suspension of time, and because the project isn’t serviced, new and old are allowed to decay together and at the same rate. Fehn enjoyed admitting that all buildings became ruins eventually and drew upon the issues of material physicality and rawness in his own work.

Fig. 04: Van Nelle Factory, Rotterdam




“Latin word ruina: a collapse, or rather a collapsing - that is, a process.” - Puff, 2010, p255

The moment at which a building becomes a ruin is ambiguous and subjective, but generally occurs when buildings lose their function. Un-obscured by function, the ruin develops an atmosphere antagonistic to the function. According to Louis Kahn, function smothers the spirit of a building - only when it becomes a ruin can the spirit return (Cook, 1973). However a simple absence of function is just one constituent of ruination. A ruin is seen as an object, a process, or indeed both, but commonly ‘ruination’ reveals something in a building which was absent in its former wholeness. This can be physical: a ruin showing plan, sectional and elevational qualities (demonstrated in Gordon Matta-Clark’s unnatural ruination of buildings), or non-physical: ruins suddenly evoking the past, present and future. Rose Macaulay and John Summerson are useful protagonists in explaining ruination. They propose that buildings ruinate through their own natural means, not through human intervention. According to Summerson the haphazard occurrence of accident allows ruins to exhibit their own “peculiar qualities” (Summerson, 1963, p237). Equally, Adam Caruso in his essay Towards an Ontology of Construction discusses the beauty of the ruined Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam (Fig. 04): “[W]hat was once held as an instance of a new reality can now be understood as highly accomplished formal composition... Although the giant machines and bulk material are no longer present one still has a strong feeling of human endeavour in this place.” Here Caruso recognises both the formal and allegorical qualities of ruins. Ruination produces a new architectural composition which becomes an explanation of itself and the building’s story.


Fig. 05: James Turrell’s Deer Shelter - entrance sequence

Fig. 06: James Turrell’s Deer Shelter - ‘Skyspace’




“The ruin becomes a playground of speculative strategies that tell us more about the beholder than about the ruin itself “ - Hell and Schönle, 2010, p7

Experience of ruins is not merely intellectual but relies on lived experience, involving the subconscious and sensual - the act of ‘viewing’ is therefore central to this experience (Puff, 2010, p255). Yet at the same time the interest in ruins not always resides in their reality but in the associations and atmospheres they invoke; on experiencing ruins a curious exchange occurs between the object’s aura and the precepts we project onto it. For example, the melancholy of Michelangelo’s architecture, according to Pallasmaa, is actually the beholder’s sense of melancholy; enigmatically, we encounter ourselves in the work (Pallasmaa, 2002, p74). Ruins in particular invoke feelings of reflection - about history, process and time, and through acknowledging these associations we are, as Pallasmaa argues, describing our own attitudes and anxieties. Associations range from individual to collective; the former linked with smaller scale ruins such as homes; the latter linked with larger-scale ruins such as entire cities. Throughout history, such places which represented “group identities and memories” (Bevan, 2007, p14) like vernacular housing, were targeted by warmongers in order to damage not just buildings but morale. More specifically, these associations often invoke nostalgia and memory which we have an innate capacity for. Made from the Greek nostos (“home”) and algos (“pain”), nostalgia describes a feeling of a certain “irreversibility of time” (Huyssen, 2006, p7), a yearning for an inaccessible past - a harking back to better times. Yet nostalgia not only points backwards, but can project us forward and indeed sideways to “imagined utopias” (Boym, 2010, p59). In architectural terms, buildings (more profoundly in ruins) act as both catalysts and embodiments of memory, preserving them beyond mental existence, according to Adrian Forty and Freudian theories, suggesting that anything that has been formed cannot perish. Aristotelian theories on the other hand propose memory as an “imprint” (Sorabji, 1972, p51), suggesting that the destruction of objects can destruct memory. Ruins can therefore embed memory permanently or weaken memory through decay - the beholder is left to decide. Physically, a ruin’s ability to connect man with nature is profound. The mass of a ruin permits delicate enclosure and has a relative transparency compared to the instant disconnection of a building. James Turrell’s Deer Shelter at Yorkshire Sculpture Park is reminiscent of this. Through a highly articulated entrance sequence, (Fig. 05) although heavy and dark, one is never brought truly indoors - there is always a connection with the outside. Like ruins, Turrell’s interventions are of calm, silent revelations of nature (Fig. 06). This silent air is vital in generating remembrance: silence focuses our attention instead on our very own existence, makes us aware of our fundamental solitude (Pallasmaa, 2002, p55).


Fig. 07: The Ruins of the old Kreuzkirche, Dresden. Bernardo Bellotto. 1765

Fig. 08: Joseph Gandy’s depiction of Sir John Soane’s Bank of England project


Romantic vs. Factual “The artist is inevitably at odds with the archaeologist. In the latter discipline the scattered fragments of stone are parts of a jigsaw, or clues to a puzzle to which there is only one answer, as in a science laboratory; to the artist, by contrast, ant answer which is imaginative is correct” - Woodward, 2002, p30

Throughout history ruins have always been perceived as objective and subjective assemblages. Romanticism of the 18th and 19th centuries had a profound influence on ruin discourse, and a frenzy of ‘ruin-gazing’ followed. At a time where there was growing disillusionment with what was conceived as an over-materialistic society, one looked instead to the spiritual - recognising transience and the inevitable victory of nature over all things. The juxtaposition of ruins with nature embodied these notions and became a vehicle for artists, writers and thinkers alike, allowing them to give second life to ruined buildings whilst expressing ideologies of the time. Ruins of religious buildings were particularly attractive as they offered an image of faith which couldn’t be recovered, but from which a new spirituality might be born (Hill, 2014). Through the confluence of philosophy, poetry and painting, ‘beauty’ became subjective and artistic. Incidentally, this romantic view coincided with the popularity of watercolour as a medium, ideally suited for the moods and sentiment of the picturesque. Ruins had featured in art earlier but served a different purpose; in early depictions of Christ’s birth for example, ruins had circumstantial meaning to indicate humble surroundings - there was little interest in the ruin itself. The list of artists who dealt with ruins was extensive, but Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) is noteworthy as a key protagonist of the Romantic movement. His anti-Napoleonic discovery of German ruins became centrestage; evocative elements to highlight the diminished strength of man and the upper-hand of nature. Equally, Bernardo Bellotto’s painting of the ruined Kreuzkirche in Dresden (Fig. 07, 1765), despite the chaotic and abrupt destruction from the Seven Years War, depicts a public fascination, acceptance and integration of the ruin: “a perfect model of harmony destroyed, set within the context of smooth civic harmony (Glover, 2012). The demand for the ruin’s aesthetic and charm led to a fashionable mania of fake ruins commissioned as garden ornaments for the wealthy, and even commissions for buildings imagined as ruins were made. Most famously, Sir John Soane employed Joseph Gandy to depict the Bank of England project as s ruin (Fig. 08), in an attempt to immortalise his work among the ruins of antiquity. Ruins came to express the architect’s sense of persecution - in ruination architecture was in its most elemental, noble and respectable state: “The recognition of this [ruined] configuration proves that in some instances there may still exist an organic structure with an inner unity which conveys the original architectural concept, in mass and voids and in relation to the surrounding space... In other words, the splendour of the original work of architecture, even if veiled by the inroads of growing nature, by demolition and sometimes by adaptations of later generations, has not been lost and radiates still” - Zucker, 1961, p130


Fig. 09: View of the Temple of Camene, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, ca. 1750–78

Fig. 10: Ruin in Gaza


The counterpoint to these prevailing Romantic attitudes used ruins as objective, factual artefacts of historical archaeological discovery, and James Stuart and Nicholas Revett’s precise copper engravings (1751 - 1754) signified this moment. Even earlier, ruins had been utilized by the likes of Nicolas Poussin (1594 - 1665) to serve as three-dimensional construction lines. These almost scientific depictions reinforce ruins’ value as meaningful pieces of architecture in their own right, exhibiting clear architectural details, tectonics, proportions and interrelationships of space and volume - a purity which, paradoxically, the intact building often struggles to attain. Eric Parry draws inspiration from the sectional quality of ruins in generating his own architecture: “Ruins are particularly [useful] because you can get up close to the sectional quality of material, and it’s always surprising the sense of scale, what you “need” in section to create a body in architecture.” - NewcastleSAPL, 2013

Piranesi’s 18th century etchings bridge the gap between the romantic and factual, demonstrating ruins’ ability to be both objective and subjective. Philosophically, he remained “haunted by the threatening aura of ruins, by their oppressive interlocking of past and present, nature and culture, death and life” (Huyssen, 2010, p26), preferring to look backward instead of forward whilst opposing the avant-garde Romantic ideologies. Artistically, his sublime skill allowed a precision unchallenged by other artists and his ruins gave archaeological proof to the state of Roman ruins as “pieces of history never forgotten” (Cooper, 2001, p123). This approach resonates with his ideas expressed in the Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de Romani, where he argued that necessity, simplicity, and most importantly “truth” were the ingredients of great architecture. However, his ruins were never isolated objects but always had a gestalt-like relationship to context - one reinforces the other (Fig. 09). The significance of artistic representation demonstrates the effect of representation over reality, and reinforces a concern that in our image-obsessed culture, we tend to judge architecture through representation over lived experience. Away from Romanticism and Piranesi’s middle-ground, the work of Marc Galasco demonstrates the ruin as true forensic architecture. A former Senior Intelligence Analyst, Galasco analysed the ruins of the Gaza Strip, interpreting and cataloguing damage into formal scientific evidence to give proof to the violation of towns and settlements. In such contexts, there is less sentimentality and more fact, and a ruin plays a major role in the public display of the ‘facts’ of violence, demonstrating the presence of colonial power even when the colonizer is nowhere to be seen (Weizman, 2011, p141). Galasco presented his findings to government officials through lectures and his Book of Destruction. These presentations were concerned with rubble, not the emotion of the homeowners who often featured in the foreground of his photographs (Fig. 10). In his own words: “From this rubble I wanted to put together the battle story. I looked in the destroyed structures and the surrounding areas for signs of military activity and of exchanges of fire between Israeli and Palestinian forces ... Aerial bombardment, artillery fire, tank fire and small arms fire have each their specific signature” - Weizman, 2011, p119


This forensic approach to ruins looks forward and backward - connecting the factual destruction of the past with the pragmatic task of evaluation for future reconstruction. In summary, with ruins falling into two generalised categories, as i) factual indicators of history and/or ii) generators of sentimentality, commonality lays in the passage of time and the notion of a ruin as a palimpsest of multiple historical events (Huyssen, 2010, p17). As a result, one never steps foot into the same ruin twice - the ‘experience’ is always unique.




“Ruins do not speak; we speak for them” - Woodward, 2002, p203

Ruins are meaningful in an aesthetic and/or allegorical way. The Theorie vom Ruinwert or “Ruin Value” devised by Hitler and Albert Speer as they pondered the future of their Empire, looked to utilise the endurance of architecture as “imperishable symbols of power” (Woodward, 2002, p30). They admired Roman ruins because they embedded (allegorically) and exhibited (aesthetically) a continuing ideological totality, and they proposes marble, stone and brick over steel and ferro-concrete to achieve this persistence. Walter Benjamin on the other hand preferred to look beyond aesthetics to its pure allegorical qualities, reading the ruin as a process: “a means of demystifying and stripping away symbolism - a means of approaching historical truth through reduction at the expense of romantic aesthetics” (Stead, 2003, p51). These meanings liken ruins to “silent monuments” (Aldo Rossi, 1982), reminding us of an epic or austere event. Monuments can be directly commemorative (such as cenotaphs), they can be buildings which have undergone applied meanings through virtue of history and association by people (such as the cotton mills of Manchester), or they can be nothing more than a humble stone or assemblage (such as ruins). Significance lies not just in a matter of beauty, use or age, but a continuum of time; an echo from the past becoming present and actual (Jackson, 1980, p91). In Berlin, such monuments exist in the collaged Kaiser Wilhelm Church and the Franziskaner Klosterkirche which exist not just as reminders of war, object-lessons or indeed to please to the public, but confer an immortality on the dead, guiding us to the future. The meaning of ruins has changed (if not weakened) in our contemporary capitalist culture of commodity and tourism. We tend to experience ruins through controlled sanitised conditions and intervention, taking us away from the pure romanticised experience of ruins in nature and leaving less to the beholder’s imagination. If we consider the Bathas of Caracella in Rome or my experience at Tintern Abbey (which historically had nearby dwellings removed to make the Abbey ‘more pleasing’ and now has a car park, pub and visitors centre), ruins have been manicured to perform as tourist attractions, destinations - “something to do” (Merrick, 2014, p51). Upholding this trend seems to be once again our interest in architectural surface and the promise of image, and our disinterest in the potentials of ageing. David Leatherbarrow and Mohsen Mostafavi raise this in their book On Weathering: “But is weathering only subtraction, can it also add and enhance? Deleterious consequences can be complemented by the potential value of sedimentation and the accumulation of detritus on a surface through the action of the weather” - Mostafavi, 1993, p6


Fig. 11: Dresden in 1910

Fig. 12: Dresden after Allied bombings, 1945


Furthermore, modern ruins are more commonly products of terrorism or natural disaster, broadcast instantaneously through the media. Although we can empathise with these images of familiarity and domesticity, it has been suggested that the “mass reproduction of ruins [through the media] numb our senses and trivialise horror” (Hell and Schönle, 2010, p6). The process of decay and ruination has also transformed through the heavying of weaponry - continents, not just cities can be destroyed, and this incomprehensibility of destruction detaches us further from the potential of sentimental associations with ruins. The devastation of World War 2 bombs threatened the very category of ‘ruin’. Former picturesque values and descriptions would surely prove inadequate - the ruins were too vivid and raw (Dillon, 2014), and furthermore could we dare consider these ruins beautiful when they represent so much suffering? Yet despite Rose Macaulay claiming in 1953 that these ruins would never attain the aesthetic qualities or atmosphere of classical ruins, the ruins did acquire notoriety amongst artists, architects and the public. The attitudes that formed during these times has had a profound effect on ruin discourse in Germany and Britain and came to characterise the nations. “It is a society’s aspirations for peacetime that determine whether a ruin is rebuilt, replaced or preserved - or rather, the ruler’s interpretations of society’s wishes - Woodward, 2002, p208

A Bombed Germany “The bomb which destroys my house also damages my body in so far as the house was already an indication of my body.” - Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 1943

Allied bombs produced widespread rubble across Germany and for the most part it was material to be swept away. The astonishing and unprecedented destruction left little mark on the country’s cultural memory - it became a subject avoided and a profound gap formed in the conscience of the nation. There was a collective amnesia towards the ruins - they were fit for forgetting. This led to an unstoppable and hallucinatory national ambition to reconstruct and return to a normal way of life, epitomised in the rebuilding of Dresden for example (Fig. 11 and Fig. 12). This uncovered an important national trait in Germany: disengaging from emotion and sentiment in order to rise from degradation and overcome all tribulations, without showing signs of weakness, (W G Sebald, 2004). Understandably, the rapidity and incomprehensibility of the destruction left little time for reflection, and we can surely sympathise with a nation that had lost lives and buildings through conflict, not to mention the overshadowing guilt of the Holocaust which the ruins represented for many people: “Dwelling on for one moment the shattered remains of churches and museums was at best self-indulgent, and at worse an indication of warped priorities (Bevan, 2007, p7). Reconstruction came to symbolise and demonstrate resilience, resistance and hope (Vidler, 2010, p30), comparable to the reconstruction of the Pentagon and Ground Zero following 9/11 where reconstruction demonstrated a response to the ‘cowardly’ act of terrorism. Yet the rubble in Germany did serve a function, and unavoidably the ruins were inevitably loaded with the burdens of history, politics and tragedy (Heathcote,


2009). Representational “rubble models” were exhibited in city halls to act as propaganda to strengthen the heroic mood to ‘get on’ and rebuild whilst empowering the construction worker as a central figure to the future of Germany (Puff, 2010, p258). Rubble also became the subject for photographers, painters and filmmakers alike. These Trummerfilme (“rubble films”) were produced under the close control of the Allied occupiers, embodying once again a blend of constructive initiatives and critical agendas (Rentschler, 2010, p419). The films preferred to look forward instead of back, promoting reconstruction rather than the reconsideration of the past. This powerful aestheticization of rubble through the media (as mentioned) left little space or time for contemplation - notions of ‘progress’ overpowered sentiment. Architecturally, German architects faced a unique situation. The objective task of providing new buildings rapidly was overlaid with the associations of history, guilt and collective memory. Positions ranged from imitative restoration in order to repress memory, to more abstracted reconstruction marking a ‘new beginning’ - in both cases an ambition to erase the marks of lived history. Under the pressures of rapidity however, the predominant architecture manifested as “unremembering blocks, blandly conforming” (Moore, 1998 p49), and this can be witnessed in most German cities today. The polarity between East and West Germany is noteworthy having produced an intensity and friction in the nation. Beautifully portrayed in The Lives of Others, the film depicts the choking of the Eastern citizens of free thought and artistic inhibition by the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Through the spying of a Western love story, Officer Wiesler becomes the personification of the growing doubt and recognition of the shortcomings of GDR and communist policy (Fig. 13). Equally, Alex and Lara in Good bye, Lenin! , sitting in a ruined warehouse, ponder excitingly at the future opportunities of Germany after Reunification. Alex says to Lara: “The future lay in our hands. Uncertain, yet promising” (Fig. 14). Architecturally, new buildings in the West such as the Europa-Center became centres of faith and capitalism, symbolising the West’s vitality and durability, whereas the East, comparable to North Korea, was very functional and artistically dead. Reunification merged the two together, but it was an ending of division by conquest rather than a synthesis of different traditions (Bevan, 2007, p193), demonstrated in the borrowing of Western ideas to solve Eastern problems, (as in the Neues Museum). The East was not satisfied to have their architectural history bulldozed to incorporate an overriding West, and according to Cornelius Hertling, the President of the Berlin Chamber of Architects, the destruction of buildings in the East eradicated authentic and legitimate history and identity. Yet the ambition for progress after Reunification was once again overshadowed with a necessity to forget, with politicians sensitive to their new capital city being “tainted by association” (Bevan, 2007, p192), and new buildings tended to consciously avoid the old. More recent projects however (ironically completed by foreign architects) suggest signs of progress and transformation. Norman Foster’s restored Reichstag replicated the lost dome, and although controversial, its transparency allows one to look down on their representatives. Furthermore, and dealing with commemoration specifically, Germany is unique in not dwelling on existing buildings but employing new architectural statements, such as in Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum and Peter Eisenmann’s Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Progress is in the new, and the burden of history is left to the old. Paul Ricoeur would argue the necessity of forgetting allows the possibility of remembering, and it seems now that Germany, one of the most reflective and articulate nations, finally has time and space for a kind


of soul-searching and civic debate about values, morality and history (Heathcote, 2009) - something we maybe find unfamiliar in our depoliticised Anglo-Saxon cities.

Fig. 13: Officer Wiesler, The Lives of Others, 2006

Fig. 14: Good bye, Lenin!, 2003


Fig. 15: Basil Spence’s winning design, 1951


A Bombed Britain In Britain, the rubble produced by German bombs took on a different character, becoming valuable and symbolic to the conscience of the country. Germany had little time for sentiment yet Britain could afford to succumb to the picturesque qualities and allegorical symbolism of the ruin - after all, the Allies were victorious. The preservation and integration of ruins within new buildings at Coventry and the House of Commons for example “indicated an enduring belief in the power of the material remains of history to inform the present” (Hill, 2014). Furthermore ruins were also admired purely for aesthetics. As Kenneth Clark declared during the Blitz, “bomb damage is in itself Picturesque” (Woodward, 2002, p212), and alongside prominent figures like T. S. Eliot and John Maynard Keyne, he proposed that Britain’s bombed churches be preserved as war memorials - the iconic image of St Paul’s Cathedral riding high above the smoke and fire of London is testament to a persistent emblem of resistance rather than repression. Even earlier during World War 1, Winston Churchill proposed the ruined town of Ypres be preserved as an open-air monument to British sacrifice, and equally Albert Einstein proposed the battlefields of Northern France be kept as monumental educational devices for the younger generations. Despite occurring overnight the ruins embodied the appeal of slow classical ruins, and numerous books were made by artists and architects to uphold these attitudes. J M Richards’ book The Bombed Buildings of Britain discussed the ruins’ symbolic potential as object-lessons and “marks of pride”, while Hugh Casson’s Bombed Churches as War Memorials contained sketches of bombed churches. Despite sharing a resemblance to the damage in Germany, these depictions were not cold, bitter or depressing like those of Dresden but were attractive and inviting garden ruins enhanced by birds and softened with vegetation. Such books demonstrated a strong national pride, whilst architecturally it was evident that damage revealed new beauties in unexpected appositions (Woodward, 2002, p221). The ruins were likened to the Dissolution of monasteries in the 16th century, in that they became object-lessons for future war-mongers, yet unlike the Dissolution which produced object ruins admired and depicted by artists (such as Tintern Abbey), these new ruins became integrated into society through intervention, showing a willingness in Britain to rethink the definition of ‘ruin’ for contemporary use. Coventry is an insightful example of architectural intervention reacting to the sensitivity and opportunities of a British war-ruin. Its cathedral was ruined by German bombs but the following day there were enthusiastic ambitions to rebuild, not as a statement of suppression as in Germany, but an act of faith, trust and hope - an opportunity to remember suffering and promote forgiveness (Bevan, 2007, p191). Sir Basil Spence, the winning architect for the competition of over 200 entries, respected and admired the ruin, safeguarding it as a picturesque memorial garden whilst entwining it with his new cathedral (Fig. 15). Setting foot upon the ruin, he explains how he felt the “impact of delicate enclosure which had the skies as a vault” (Spence, 1962, p5). Spence also recognised the aesthetic and allegorical potential of the ruin in enhancing his project and creating cultural meaning and association: “I saw the old cathedral as standing clearly for the sacrifice... and I knew my task was to design a new one which should stand for [Resurrection]” (Spence, 1962, p6). Without the ruin his project would have been undoubtedly lesser - he admitted the new would be “incomplete” without it. Architectural devices are employed to heighten the awareness of the ruin - glazed entrances, orientations and vistas afford views through new toward the old.


Compared to Germany, it seemed Britain had absorbed its ruins into its national ‘brand’ and conscience. According to Jay Merrick, ruins in Britain have served a threefold function; a conflation of the City (financial potency), technical and design specialisms (creative potency) and legendary architectural fabric (historical potency) (Merrick, 2014, p51).




“I am going to argue that no amount of reconstruction, obliteration of the traces, or happy cover-ups can erase the traces of these sites. They are the evidence we have of both loss in the past and of our anxiety for the future, of our fear of erasure through violence.” - Vidler, 2010, p33

Undeniably, ruins prompt action and provide opportunities, inviting the beholder to fulfil something unexplored. In Germany, this was a prompt to reconstruct and sweep away; in Britain, it was a prompt to use the ruins meaningfully. Detached nowadays from the notion of ‘authentic’ ruins experienced in true nature, we seem instead to be within an age of preservation and restoration; in short, intervention. It has itself become a rich experience in architecture - the idea of creating new from the neglected is attractive and rewarding, and was something the Romantics likened to a divine mythological process of birth, death and redemption. Recent advances in building technology (as I will demonstrate), have allowed a resurgence of new opportunities for the integration of ruins into new singular buildings, yet the moment when intervention becomes viable and appropriate still relies on many circumstances. It has been suggested by some that the ‘old has to die before it is reborn’, however the definition of “death” with regard to ruins (given their very definition) becomes complex.

Restoration and Conservation Debate surrounding the treatment old buildings has been potent throughout history, and cannot be explored without discussing ‘Restoration’ led by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879) and ‘Conservation’ led by John Ruskin (1819-1900). During this time, Romanticism was stepping aside for materialism, science, pragmatism and sound argument, marking a moment of fresh ideas in architecture. “Do not let us deceive ourselves in this important matter; it is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture” - John Ruskin, 1849

“To restore a building is not to repair it, nor to do maintenance or to rebuild, it is to re-establish it in an ultimate state that never existed before” - Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, 1855

“From Ruskin (hands off) and Viollet-le-Duc (hands all over the place) to Scarpa and Rossi, we are given a good flavour of the historical debate over what is to be done with old buildings.” - McIntyre, 2008


Le-Duc was a rationalist doer believing in restoration and re-interpretation, claiming the styles of the past had already been glorified. Mere adoption of these historic styles was questionable; architects should study history by all means, but reduce it to the process of argument and then re-describe it through intervention of its time. Authenticity was found in the legibility of the diverse parts of which the survival of the building is composed (Hollis, 2013, p5). With recent thinking and technology, le-Duc’s mantra has been translated from idea to building. According to Tony Fretton for example, buildings “should have a natural relation with the past, and a high degree of freedom in defining the present” (Fretton, 2013, p252). On the other hand, Ruskin was a nostalgic, moral and dreaming thinker. A revivalist, he believed in preservation and conservation, investing faith with the past and the replication of an idealised, permanent and untouched history, returning to the utopian pre-industrial world. He believed in imitation which supposed that authenticity lay in stylistic and aesthetic unity (Hollis, 2013, p5) and he became the Father of meticulous conservation, a practice which became customary in the care of ruins in the 19th century. His profound opposition to restoration was no doubt rooted in his Evangelism beliefs, claiming that only God could ‘raise the dead’ - for Ruskin, it was better for a building to fall than be botched through restoration.

Contemporary Attitudes With protagonist companions Ruskin and le-Duc, and the Venice Charter in-hand, we have seen discourse surrounding the treatment of ruins continue to develop, with contemporary architects drawing upon this rich historical body of ideas. More recently, and since that very Charter of 1964 there has been a resounding call for the ‘authentic’ restoration of buildings in an ever-shrinking homogenous world. The 1994 Nara Document on Authenticity produced during the Bosnian conflicts by a collection of conservation experts, builds upon the Charter and calls for a ‘truth’ in architecture whilst reinforcing the importance of ‘context’: “In a world that is increasingly subject to the forces of globalization and homogenization, and in a world in which the search for cultural identity is sometimes pursued through aggressive nationalism and the suppression of the cultures of minorities, the essential contribution made by the consideration of authenticity in conservation practice is to clarify and illuminate the collective memory of humanity” - taken from Bevan, 2007, p189

John Summerson argues that dealing with ruins specifically involves a kind of “play-acting” and should be approached in that manner, drawing upon one’s taste and imagination. But how much of intervention is attributed to taste and judgement, and how much is attributed to more formal responses discussed, and of course the ruin itself - its conditions, character and story? Rachel Whiteread’s work is worthy of mention in that respect. She is an artist who makes new from old through the process of casting - familiar objects become unfamiliar through inversion. She adopts a consistent style and methodology despite changing context in the aim of provoking consistent notions of self-reflection. Comparable to architectural intervention on ruins, Whiteread gives form to the immaterial, placing importance upon void and the gaps and spaces between things, through which she provokes “meaning of that absence” (Townsend, 2004, p25). The gaps in ruins have a comparably


equal importance because they prompt intervention through forcing the beholder to supply the missing pieces (Woodward, 2002, p15). Commonly, works rely on the beholder’s subconscious phenomological awareness in order to provoke memory and meaning. In recent times architects seem to have adopted a Scarpa-type approach seen at Castelvecchio. The old is cleaned and restored with marks of history allowed to remain, with new contemporary interventions added as layers and differentiated through tectonic devices and material. Similar but different approaches are taken by Richard Rogers and Nicholas Grimshaw, where traditional details are replicated through high-tech fabrication methods - an approach which relies on a complex blend of continuity and distinction. According to Ed Hollis, historic buildings are already collages and palimpsests, so if purity in its literal sense has already been compromised, there need be no hesitation on adding to those layers further, providing the new layer is legibly different from its predecessors (Hollis, 2013, p7).





Beyond this theoretical knowledge and framework it is vital to set up an investigation of architecture itself through case studies. Considering the chronology of ruination, I will trace three projects from ‘decay’ to ‘reconstruction’ where possible, in each instance understanding the significance of the ruin on the resulting architecture whilst relating back to my earlier research, ideas and terminologies. Given the unique context of Germany following World War 2, the projects are based in Munich and Berlin and allow a strong direct comparison. In 1957 Hans Döllgast’s project in Munich signified a crucial moment in ruin treatment, providing an exemplary synthesis of Ruskin and le-Duc’s approaches. The latter two projects completed in recent years both draw on this precedent yet demonstrate different approaches to a similar context. Research was conducted through an abundance of available materials drawing as much as possible from critical architectural commentaries as well as lived experience and the words of the architects themselves, sourced through lectures and interviews.


Fig. 16: Location plan (Alte Pinakothek highlighted)

Fig. 17: Site aerial (Alte Pinakothek highlighted)




Munich, despite being a victim of 71 Allied bomb raids, avoided the prevailing German mood of repression towards the war-ruins. As the Capital of German Art, Capital of the Movement and a Nazi stronghold, the city became a melting-pot for alternative ideas to overcome its sensitive recent history. Plans to rebuilt the city followed an unusually meticulous and conservative framework compared to the rest of Germany - the historic urban grid was to be retained with most buildings reconstructed to their former glory (Fig. 16). The Vergangenheitsbewaltigung, a term coined for this considered, sensitive, patient yet radical concept of ‘mastering’ the past and overcoming Nazism gathered pace, with three groups of protagonists arguing its definition; the Modernists desired a complete break from history, the Traditionalists yearned for the return to the pre-Hitlerian historic city, and the Preservationists proposed a rebuilding that incorporated the painful memories of Nazism and Allied bombings. The ruined Alte Pinakothek was exempt from the usual imitative reconstruction and became the city’s major reconstruction project. Restored by Hans Döllgast in 1957, it’s a diplomatic response to the three protagonists, a synthesis of contemporary thinking and a sensitive and respectful reaction to the ruin. The original building, designed by the Court Architect Leo van Klenze in 1836 was revolutionary as the largest museum in the world and served as an exemplary model for modern museum planning. Klenze described the design of the museum: “An art gallery must be situated in an open space, protected from fire, dust and vibration... It must make the right impression on visitors to put them in a suitable frame of mind; for it is intended for the whole nation, not just for artists... we must [therefore] choose a decorative style which is at once sumptuous and grandiose but does not jeopardize the pictures” - Dube, 1970, pp8-10

Little did Klenze know his building would be ruined by Allied bombs and subject to the fire, dust and vibration he had somewhat ironically prepared his building for. Nowadays, decades after the Venice Charter, we are used to the contrast of ‘old and simplified new’ but given the era, the sensitive context and national anxieties after the war, Döllgast’s restoration project was ground-breaking in dealing with ruins. It has made a resonant contribution to wider contemporary restoration discourse, cited by many architects, namely David Chipperfield and Diener & Diener. In Chipperfield’s own words: “The most interesting work that was done in Germany was the work done immediately after the war. Since then, I must say, restoration and reconstruction has become super conservative and everyone basically wants to see a copy of what was lost. This is Döllgast, rebuilding the Pinakothek in Munich, with the austerity of materials, he matched the facade, building it in a stripped version, not trying to copy, but on the other hand, give continuity.” - TheHarvardGSD, 2011


Fig. 18: Alte Pinakothek, restored section

Fig. 19: Alte Pinakothek, new interior space


Fig. 20: Alte Pinakothek, exterior detail

The building sits in a generous landscaped site with expanses of green on the north and south sides (Fig. 17), yet the former ruin stood as an ugly object in this ‘perfect’ landscape, a blotch on the landscape alienated by people who walked by. For a building which had so much presence, it was a condemning sight to see it in ruins. At the time of the project’s inception, competing architects and planners called for a Modernist or Traditionalist response - the ruin should be demolished despite the majority of the structure still intact. Döllgast fiercely campaigned to maintain the ruin through an approach he coined “creative reconstruction” (Schröer, 2005), which amongst other things, proved the most economic approach and importantly, eased the anxieties of the jury. His approach would be applauded by le-Duc: the new gives recognition to the principles of the austere language of the original building but re-describes it through a simplified and contemporary language, avoiding the replication of original decoration (Fig. 18). Döllgast’s infilled facade sections used salvaged bricks to patch-up the shattered stonework, and despite following the principles of the original building, they are highly designed with great consideration to tectonic detailing. The bricks, although familiar to the architect and public alike, took on a new allegoric value as survivors of the bombs, ‘embedding’ the memory of the war as Adrian Forty would argue. The bricks were collected by local women, the only available workforce at the time and affectionately nicknamed the “brick widows”. They formed lines across the rubble, extracted adequate bricks and passed them to the builders - the bricks themselves and the construction process took on a didactic meaning, a polite memorial to both the war and to the women who with their own hands, had commenced the rebuilding of their homeland. Whilst Döllgast recompleted the facade (somewhat conservatively) giving recognition to the external appearance and rhythm, he afforded more radical modifications to the interior, acknowledging the demands of a contemporary museum for the present and future. The reclaimed bricks of the facade permeate into and dominate these new spaces, giving them a sacred and archaic atmosphere and allowing a proximity to the physicality and tactile qualities of the bricks as well as their weathering, age and history (Fig. 19). Döllgast transformed the former loggia into a new monumental staircase space which improved circulation, acted as an orienting device and maintained a connection with the outside. Importantly, these spaces are sober enough to respect and not overwrite the ruin yet interesting enough to stand out as architecture in their own right. Döllgast’s incorporated the wounds and pockmarks of bullet holes and bomb craters (avoiding concealment), acknowledging the ruin and its damage as a meaningful and appropriate memory of the war inside a building of such austerity (Fig. 20). In this way Döllgast renders all histories of the building important; respecting the past, building in the present, and planning for the future. From the outside he allows the beholder to trace this history through subtle intervention, careful detail and subtle differences in material and finish. From the inside, history is traced through dramatic new spaces which have both a classical and archaic atmosphere combined with a restrained modern language in juxtaposition with the retained original sections.


Fig. 21: Location plan (Neues Museum highlighted)

Fig. 22: Site aerial (Neues Museum highlighted)




Berlin experienced destruction on an unprecedented scale through the Allied bombings, and as a city of large steel-framed buildings it was pulverized but not flattened, leaving a unique ruinscape of towering ruins. One such building was the Neues Museum, part of the ensemble that compose the UNESCO World Heritage Museum Island in the former East Berlin (Fig. 21). Friedrich August Stüler’s original building (1855) was the world’s first three-storey museum (Fig. 22) and adopted advanced technologies - cast and wrought iron bowstring girders and terracotta hollowpot vaults (a technology borrowed from Soane’s Bank of England project) in order to be lightweight atop unsuitable subsoil conditions. Most importantly however, Stüler’s design centred on the didactic idea of artefact and architecture narrating a ‘total’ story of ocular immersion (Barndt, 2011, p297) - the richness of the artefacts are upheld by a equally rich and elaborate architecture, achieved through fresco and decoration. Before the war however, fashions in museum display began to shift towards architecture as a ‘neutral’ backdrop to artefacts. Furthermore, and sixty years later, these ideas help to uphold the approach to the ruin. As David Chipperfield explains: “The building has taken on its own quality, its own nearly exhibit-like presence, and of course in the end it has to assume the role not of exhibit, but of background...It’s true that the neutral space remains the space in which we find it easier to present exhibits.” - Lepik, 2009

The building was ruined by Allied incendiary bombs between 1943 and 1945 and peppered with shells and bullets during periods of fierce Russian fighting. Whilst the neighbouring museums felt the GDR’s drab hand attempts at imitative reconstruction, and despite attempts to stabilise, protect and commodify the ruin for storage, it stood for sixty years and matured into a comfortable natural state, resembling an antiquated classical subject to slow weathering and overgrown with foliage (it became affectionately nicknamed “Berlin’s Pompeii” by critic Heinrich Wefing). Allegorically, the ruin remained a potent and unavoidable monument to war - a shattering reminder of transience and decay (Haspel, 2009, p18) and a trace of Berlin’s condition as a city of post-war rubble (Fig. 23). Many doubted the ruin’s relevance for the future, nicknaming it museal, a German word describing objects in the process of dying and that no longer have a relationship to the beholder (Crimp, 1997, p41). In 1988 the GDR were about to commence a synthetic reconstruction of the building in-line with their reconstruction initiatives, when Reunification intervened and instead an extensive competition incentive ensued. It deemed reconstruction “unacceptable in conservational, museological and artistic terms” (von Buttlar, 2010, p28) and invited alternative ideas. The commission was awarded to the David Chipperfield / Julian Harrap cooperative team. Without discussing the entirety of the project and process (which spanned more than a decade), I wish to concentrate instead on a number of relevant aspects which give oxygen to this wider discussion.


Fig. 23: Ruined Staircase Hall, post 1945

Fig. 24: Ruined Staircase Hall, 1997


The team were required to devise a philosophical approach which would guide the subsequent decisions for the ruin’s treatment - an approach familiar in Germany where there is patience and acceptance of intellectual idea, but somewhat unfamiliar to the Anglo-Saxon team. They invested significant time with the ruin and these firsthand experiences became the catalysts for their thinking and consequent approach. Through time and wear, the ruin had taken on not just picturesque value but architectural value, and the team recognised two main realities. Firstly, the seductive state of the ruin as nature, especially within such a dense and variegated urban setting. Chipperfield cites Roger Fenton’s photographs of Rievaulx Abbey alongside his thoughts: “A ruin brings architecture close to us... You get the feeling [in Fenton’s photographs] that architecture and nature sit comfortably together. Ruination, or the state of architecture before its highly decorated is closer, allows us a proximity, to the physical qualities of architecture. And that’s what we all felt in the Neues Museum.” - TheHarvardGSD, 2011

Secondly, ruination had revealed a powerful authentic material rawness and physicality which enabled a proximity and legibility (Fig. 24). The team, having inherited such a physical place, were determined to retain it. According to Chipperfield, “People cannot help but be moved by this authenticity, in a world where so little is authentic.” (Ketcham, 2011), and he cites Gandy’s drawings of Soane’s Bank of England project (depicting moments of construction and imagined future ruin) alongside his thoughts: “The brickwork was exposed and this was something sad but also quite powerful... There is something about what’s underneath architecture that is important... There was a certain empathy that the ruin exposed itself in its physicality and its matter - it allowed people to relate to it. That seemed to me something quite special, and was something that was in danger of being lost.” - ColumbiaGSAPP, 2012

Avoiding the GDR approach and the conventional Scarpa approach of overt contrast, whilst at the same time following the principles of Erganzende Wiederherstellung (“complimentary reconstruction”) stipulated by Berlin’s City Commission, the team’s resultant underlying approach proposed an ‘augmented rebuilding’ epitomised in Döllgast’s project: building upon the complex layered history of the ruin by respecting the past, building in the present whilst incorporating an openness in planning for the future. The resultant ‘singular’ building was not to privilege new over old, but create a encyclopaedic experience of all histories of the building, made from Stüler’s original ideas, the fragments of the ruin and the new additions demanded by recent history. New and old reinforce each other “not in a desire for contrast but in a search for continuity” (Chipperfield, 2009, p56). Inspired by Ruskin and Döllgast, everything left of the original fabric would be preserved, stabilised and repaired as far as possible to make sense of what remained. It is both an irony and a testament to the new reunified Germany in the borrowing of ideas from Döllgast’s Alte Pinakothek in the former West, implemented by a foreign architect to solve a building problem in the East. Chipperfield explains:


Fig. 25: François Vase, cited by Chipperfield for the “Greek vase” analogy

Fig. 26: The Roman Room, Neues Museum


“When museums in Munich and elsewhere were rebuilt, the East Germans couldn’t afford to do the same in Berlin. Now, when there is the will to rebuild, a new ethic has emerged that wants to remind Germany of its painful past and won’t let them repair and restore it to beauty and perfection.” - Ketcham, 2011

Crucially, the bombs had left enough original fabric to make their approaches viable, yet ruination was so inconsistent, with areas completely, areas partly-destroyed and some areas intact, that the approach was significantly enriched and complicated. The ruin demanded a dynamic correspondence between repair, conservation, restoration and intervention across different scales, whilst always satisfying the ‘underlying approach’. Intervention was decided on a case-by-case, room-by-room basis and similar to Marc Galasco’s forensic approach, every surface was meticulously photographed and painstakingly compiled into a series of ‘record books’ that gave evidence to the extent of damage and informed the tactics for intervention. Conceptually, the team adopted a “Greek vase” analogy to communicate these complex and comprehensive ideas to the committee (Fig. 25). The analogy, an approach widely understood in archaeology and the restoration of paintings, was essentially to give body back to something broken. Chipperfield explains his translation of this approach to architecture: “We were building a museum for the archaeological collection so it was an argument I could make with the archaeologists. I explained to them that the fragments of the Greek urn, when they sit on the table, have very little meaning. They’re fascinating because of their history but we can’t understand what they mean. If we put them back together [with a gypsum substrate], we can predict, or we can extrapolate how they sat in relationship to each other, so each fragment can be given meaning again within an overall form.” - TheHarvardGSD, 2011

Re-establishing the form of the original building was therefore priority, yet similar to the restoration of paintings or the recompletion of archaeological objects, the last thing one resorts to is the copying of the original decoration because all of a sudden you lose the original and its meaning. Instead a ‘neutral’ substrate is employed and the new can reflect the lost without imitating it. Unlike the restoration of paintings or vases however, the fragments of the Neues Museum ruin contained rooms and expectations of which rooms led to the other, and re-establishing spatial sequences drew from Stüler’s original plan. This is epitomised by the new concrete staircase which followed Stüler’s original without copying it, because in that space, the way you walk up towards the light, turn and go back up towards the light make sense with the stair, and wouldn’t have made sense without the stair. In the treatment of ruined internal wall sections, there is a seamless tectonic, an invisible ‘transition’ between old and new (Fig. 26), not a junction, barrier or shadow-gap which is prevalent in contemporary restoration projects. Furthermore, the original room volumes and spatial qualities are recompleted in such a strict manner that walls, floors and ceilings exist as a singular homogenous planes, void of depth or thickness(es). Distinguishing between new and old relies not on tectonic junctions but ocular inspection and visual acknowledgement


Fig. 27: Variety of concrete textures, new Staircase Hall, Neues Museum

Fig. 28: New Staircase, Neues Museum

Fig. 29: The Western Art Chamber, Neues Museum

Fig. 30: South Dome Room, Neues Museum


through surface distinction in colour, tone and decoration (which paradoxically became even more decorative through ruination). In places such as the Medieval Room (a microcosm of repairs, replacements, copies and new inventions) the collage of old and new becomes almost indistinguishable. This mixed approach with ambitions to create a “singular” building with an underlying consistent philosophy seems questionable, relying on a particular definition of “singular”. The ‘neutrality’ of the brand-new elements is achieved through beautifully crafted, precast monolithic concrete elements, in-line one might argue with Chipperfield’s usual repertoire. Historically, Stüler adopted a variety of building techniques to draw upon the capacity of Prussian craftsmanship, giving a variety of interiors and Chipperfield has translated this variety through changes in finish (sand-blasted and polished) and a liveliness in the concrete’s composition (white cement and Saxonian marble aggregate, livened further through coarse sand), yet importantly these pieces never compete with the ruin in terms of brightness or surface (Fig. 27). There is a discomforting contradiction in these new pieces between the massive scale and constructional precision, but it is critical to the overall concept and becomes once again, like Stüler’s original, a testament to German craftsmanship. This sense of craftsmanship means that beholders identify with the making and physical quality of these new interventions alongside the original textural qualities of the ruin, not in contrast but in continuity. It is something Chipperfield attributes uniquely to Germany: “The Neues Museum, as it is possible in Germany, it is possible to do construction at a very very high level. It’s much more difficult in the Anglo-Saxon cultures [where] we have a much more powerful construction industry that’s very reluctant to do things. In Germany, you can do it” - TheHarvardGSD, 2011

In binding a ruin of varied degrees of damage into a singular whole, scale is a vital consideration; smaller repairs such as missing pieces of plaster needed no architectural quality. Larger interventions made of the new concrete elements such as the brand-new rooms, the northwest wing, the southeast protruding section and the new staircase (Fig. 28) require a presence and architectural integrity of their own, their own ‘story’ alongside the ruin. Interestingly, the brand new rooms which replaced the spaces completely lost through ruination remember what was there without copying; they offer the eye a continuity within the formal geometry of the classical building but is translated through the language of the concrete. These rooms have less neutrality and more contrast than the ‘gap’ interventions, exhibiting an almost Egyptian tectonic. Columns and free-spanning beams are ‘loaded’, literally as load-bearing structure whilst loaded with a strong classical language of columns and beams (Fig. 29). Such devices could be attributed once again to Chipperfield’s usual repertoire and taste. The presence of brick in the ruin clearly dictated certain interventions. Using brick as a modular unit also allowed a continuous transition from small-scale repair to brand-new volumes. The original building was made of brick with an applied stucco to simulate stone. As discussed, ruination had brought the raw brickwork back as the underlying architecture; a rawness which was vital in describing the building’s history and allowing the legibility of its construction. Second-hand reclaimed bricks were used on the infilled sections on the facade, void of stucco but suppressed with a slurry wash in a delicate balance to, on the one hand soften the redness of the variegated brick to match the sandstone tones of the original stucco, whilst on the other hand not entirely concealing the brick’s texture and patina. Brick was used in the magnificent new South Dome Room (Fig. 30),


Fig. 31: Presence of damage, Neues Museum

Fig. 32: Columns with weathering exposed (right), Staircase Hall, Neues Museum


constructed as a pure and minimal version of the original form, interpreting, honouring and remembering Stüler’s original and giving continuity without replicating decoration or detail. The presence of damage is a significantly important and complex constituent of both the ruin and final building (Fig. 31). It reflects the wider issues of historic reconstruction - an argument between rebuilding monuments to stimulate their original glory ‘visually’, or preserving of building fabric as ‘physical’ evidence of history. As Chipperfield explains: “There is a difference I think, between showing damage and giving evidence to something the building has been through... I think there was a distinction between the result, giving evidence to what this building had been through, being a different thing than just saying “it’s a ruin, let’s keep it as a ruin”, because that’s not what we were doing, that wasn’t the idea. The idea was to make a new building, it wasn’t to keep the old one and add some new bits to it. It was really to make a new building, out of the old, and out of the history of it, all of its histories.” - HarvardGSD, 2011

Some visitors I encountered assured me it was an “exploitation” of damage, harking back to ruin Romanticism, whereas others saw it as an important recognition of an unavoidable history: “we can be proud to have moved on”. Nonetheless, the successful balance of showing damage without monumentalizing it or memorialising it comes through protecting it in its ‘reality’ and not through interpretations or projections of damage (Lepik, 2009).Chipperfield strived to emphasise “positive memory” (Barndt, 2011, p302) but any building entwined with a war-ruin inescapably links it to war trauma and the Socialist history of Germany; “The ruin turned museum harbours an undeniable allegorical appeal. Read as an allegory of Germany’s Verletztes Gedächtnis (“wounded memory”), the museum achieves an intricate balance: one between holding open and aestheticizing the violence that attended both its foundation and its destruction.” - Barndt, 2011

There appear to be inconsistencies in approach towards damage. In-line with the Venice Charter, the damage is protected and cleaned in most instances to retain the original material. Yet on the dirtied columns in the staircase hall, the soot left from fire was retained (Fig. 32). Clearly this dirt meant something, and for the design team it was a matter of picturesque appeal and allegorical meaning. A delicate balance which Chipperfield explains was in danger of being lost through ‘over-intervention’: “Somehow the journey that these columns had had, that they’d been burnt, that they’d been taken out of the building and we’d put them back in, somehow made them into exponents in themselves, and we were just shy of cleaning them off ” - ColumbiaGSAPP, 2012


Fig. 33: The Greek Court, Neues Museum

Fig. 34: Northern exterior of the Neues Museum


On my visit to the project there were two main realities. I felt awe at experiencing a building which was clearly recognising its painful past through ruination and damage, not afraid of showing these scars but confident enough to incorporate intervention to allow it to function as a contemporary museum (Fig. 33). This was a successful singular building without having lost the authentic narrative and initial impact of the ruin and its history, which the design team held so fondly and preciously. The building is a “history of the city and the history of museology embodied in a glorious enfilade” (Heathcote, 2009). Secondly and above all, and despite easily overlooking the technical challenges of servicing the ruin to meet modern requirements (which Chipperfield likens to “air conditioning a Pompeian ruin” (TheHarvardGSD, 2011)), the ruin has retained its powerful physicality whilst it’s balanced with equally, physically authentic new pieces (Fig. 34). This has allowed such a strong proximity and engagement with the building and its histories. It was clear that people could find a relationship with the building simply because of its physical and tactile qualities - I witnessed people kneeling to touch physical surfaces. Clearly this physicality would have been unachievable without the ruin, the power of which is maintained and heightened through the respectful new additions which don’t generate contrast but invite the ruin along in continuity. The new additions occupy a delicate position between being too interesting and not interesting enough - providing the background, yet still powerful enough to be regarded pieces of architecture in their own right. “We are each, I think, like the Neues Museum. We have no original to which we should return. We can’t fix the past, hold it still. It lives in us, saturating our present. And to be present in our lives is, in part, to keep our relationship with our past alive, rather than fixing it and ventriloquising it. But, as the British psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell wrote in 1974, ‘at every moment of a person’s existence he is living and telling in word, deed, or symptoms, the story of his life’. Every moment is unutterably present; yet also historical. The past is here; we can conceal its modesty behind a makeshift curtain, if we insist, but it’s always here — telling its story, in the texture of everything that is right here, now.” - Angel, 2013


Fig. 35: Location plan (Museum of Natural History highlighted)

Fig. 36: Site aerial (Museum of Natural History highlighted)




The listed Natural History Museum building in Berlin was built in 1889. It is the largest museum of natural history in Germany (Fig. 35). Also a victim of Allied bombs, its east section was extensively damaged. This section was left as a ruin for 65 years, stabilised in parts by the GDR but left to nature and became overgrown with foliage. Issued in the early 2000’s, the sensitive brief for the ruin’s restoration stipulated that the substance of the ruined facade would be minimally affected whilst the functionality, infrastructure and layout could be significantly reshaped, much like Döllgast’s approach. The antiquity, character and atmosphere of the main spaces such as the Dinosaur Hall and Mineral Halls are retained whilst the East Wing has been reshaped by Swiss firm Diener & Diener into one of the world’s most modern buildings for scientific wet collections and the first stage of an extensive process of reformulation for the museum. Given the building’s unusual winged form (Fig. 36), the ruined section was obscurely hidden from view. Tucked around the east side of the principal facade and main entrance, the ruin went unnoticed by the passer-by and noticed by the scientists who parked their cars opposite. The subtlety and relative invisibility of the ruin and its relation to the rest of the building and wider urban context resonates with Diener & Diener’s project - an equally modest, ‘invisible’ yet fascinating intervention, completed in 2009. It’s a facade which fit’s in (quite literally) and can be easily overlooked (Fig. 37). Internally, the new East Wing is nondescript; the spatial sequence feels old-fashioned, linear and convoluted, and without the privilege of views to the outside through windows (now bricked up), which could serve as useful orienting devices, such as in Döllgast’s reformulated loggia space, one feels lost. There is no tectonic articulation of moving from old to new: the original materials such as the epoxy resin floor are continued seamlessly - new literally becomes old. Externally, the facade and exterior was regarded extremely important by the design brief in recompleting the building. Diener & Diener respond to this through mimicry of what was there before, executed somewhat paradoxically through innovative construction techniques - high-tech is combined with classical presentation. This quality is unexpectedly uncanny and arguably, propels the building even further back into history than its former ruinous state. Interestingly, and despite the sensitive context of Germany and the prescriptive brief, the project resonates with the unhindered, uncompromised and distinctive approach of Diener & Diener. Their work lies in the ideas of Realism and Functionalism, engaging with history through a sense of familiarity and neutrality. The aesthetic is expressed through a strong yet restrained sense of materiality and a thorough reduction of all means. In an interview published in 1991, Roger Diener explains that their work draws upon conventions and the notions of ‘recognisability’, ‘generalization’, ‘readability’ and ‘familiarity’. Furthermore, he admits that his practice finds that “the scope of design is large and that we do often not make full use of it” (Hüter, 1991, p71). They therefore limit design to a few problems, concentrating on a restrained set of elements; doors, windows, walls, and their interrelationships. Diener even admits to creating a “distance from the place” (Hüter, 1991, p77) by giving their buildings a more general form and concentrating instead on internalised issues.


Fig. 37: New section of facade

Fig. 38: Joint between new and old


Fig. 39: Sample section of new facade

The ‘problem’ then of filling in the gap of the ruin, resulted in simply drawing upon the recognisability and familiarity of what existed before and replicating it, pouring the new into the old. This approach was achievable through advanced construction techniques. Silicon moulds were derived from the surviving pieces of the exterior shell, forming a mould for the new concrete sections. Every detail is captured - brickwork, joints, mullions, details, window bars and cornices, and there is no doubt that the viewer is forced to understand what the building looked like before ruination. In that sense there is no ambiguity in this building. Yet tectonically, and unlike the Neues Museum, the transition from old to new is articulated through a substantial silicon joint (whether intentional or not) (Fig. 38). Whether intentional or not, upon closer inspection there are further paradoxes and contradictions to the desired ‘invisibility’ of the intervention. The overall aesthetic familiarity and recognisability is counterbalanced with unfamiliar and strange aspects through materiality and tectonics. For example, both new and existing windows are bricked-in (albeit due to the light-sensitive requirements of the functions within), and the uniformity of the concrete texture and pigmentation contrasts the character, life and richness of the original brickwork. Furthermore, according to the jury of the DAM Award, who awarded the 2011 to the project: “[the building is a] puzzle of time and material.. the reconstruction appears subtle and in a subtle way radical. This is a building that gives the impression of coherence, without denying its historical wounds” - Nararro, 2012

Yet importantly, these contradictions and paradoxes actually allow the interpretation of different histories the original complete building, recognition that there was a ruin (a ‘gap’), and the resultant ‘new’ complete building. This act of replication is therefore more complex than it might seem: certainly not a wholly innocent or ‘authentic’ act as John Ruskin may have argued. In fact there is an “irritating contradiction” to their intervention (Haberle, 2011) through its desire for imitation. They admit that things can look the same of course, but equally, because of unavoidable history and context, they admit that any new intervention take on completely new meanings - new additions, however close to imitating the past convincingly, have a history and story of their own. A over-intentional and overly conscious effort to ‘forget’, or at least to conceal history through aesthetic or ‘surface’ mimicry, in attempts to return a building to its former state as the GDR facilitated, can generate a heightened sense of memory: “an art cannot deal with memory without also confronting forgetting” (Forty, 2001, p16). Furthermore, Rowan Moore in his essay The Architecture of Damage, likens this approach to the Don Quixote in a Borges story: “his character is word-for-word identical with the original, but cannot be read as exactly the same” - Moore, 1998

Finally, on leaving the building I encountered a small sample section of the new concrete facade, an emblemised fragment almost unnaturally perfect (Fig. 39). It had been left on the floor almost as a makeshift exhibition explicitly explaining the intervention’s construction. If one was in doubt of the intervention, then no more. It demonstrated to me that here there was less sentiment towards the ruin and indeed no ambiguity, actualised or invoked - one is meant to understand firstly what the building was ‘meant’ to look like, and secondly how that was achieved. 51

Fig. 40: Ruin Lust pamphlet




How have attitudes towards ruins, developed from Romanticism to the present day, affected ruin treatment in contemporary German architecture? In conclusion, it is clear that attitudes have influenced ruin treatment in contemporary German architecture. The projects discussed are undeniably more powerful and meaningful (in process and building itself) as a result of integrating a ruin. Significantly, in more recent times it seems that ruins remind us of the power of authentic physical experience, operating on a more subconscious level, over the more intellectual levels that ruins satisfied in Romanticism. It would seem that on experiencing ruins, we shouldn’t underestimate or look beyond the horizon, but instead look at what lies in front of us and take it seriously. Architecturally, what each project demonstrated was that the ruin dictated a reactionary intervention of equal physical authenticity (there is no cladding or ‘surface architecture’ to be seen) whilst permitting freedom of method, style and approach. These new pieces of architecture, intertwined with the ruin, have a physicality which allows a significantly meaningful proximity and engagement for the beholder. Modern architecture tends to struggle to emanate such qualities, and in some cases even intentionally avoids it. To quote David Chipperfield: “The physicalness of a ruined building, in one’s appreciation of this, seems to be a sad testament for our lack of enthusiasm for the finished thing.” - ColumbiaGSAPP, 2012

Visiting Tate Britain’s recent Ruin Lust exhibition, it was clear that we continue to cling to Romantic notions of ruins. Even in Rachel Whiteread’s Demolished series, we seem to force ourselves to find Romantic association. Furthermore, nowhere was there evidence or recognition of contemporary architecture projects integrating ruins, which would seem just as relevant as the antiquated art-pieces. It was an exhibition of objects within a landscape, rather than the landscape itself. In Germany, the impact of World War 2 was profound in prompting an enriched debate about ruins; this has continued, and will no doubt continue to develop. In Britain we seem to lag behind, and with a lesser tolerance and patience for intellectual idea (as Chipperfield continues to raise concern about), we are in danger of underestimating the value of our inevitable future ruins. Will we ever witness equivalently touching scenes of Munich’s “brick widows” or the thousands of people protesting at the doors of the Neues Museum, here in Britain? Admittedly, ruins bring speculation and debate, but this is surely desirable, even when critical.


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Images Fig. 01: The Neues Museum Source: Author’s own Fig. 02: Tintern Abbey Source: Author’s own Fig. 03: Hitler’s Atlantic Wall Source: Fig. 04: Van Nelle Factory, Rotterdam Source: Fig. 05: James Turrell’s Deer Shelter - entrance sequence Source: Author’s own Fig. 06: James Turrell’s Deer Shelter - ‘Skyspace’ Source: Author’s own Fig. 07: The Ruins of the old Kreuzkirche, Dresden. Bernardo Bellotto. 1765 Source: Fig. 08: Joseph Gandy’s depiction of Sir John Soane’s Bank of England project Source: Fig. 09: View of the Temple of Camene, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, ca. 1750–78 Source: jpg Fig. 10: Ruin in Gaza Source: Fig. 11: Dresden in 1910 Source: Fig. 12: Dresden after Allied bombings, 1945 Source: s1600/%252791850.jpg


Fig. 13: Officer Wiesler, The Lives of Others, 2006 Source: Fig. 14: Good bye, Lenin!, 2003 Source: Author’s own Fig. 15: Basil Spence’s winning design, 1951 Source: Spence, B Sir (1962). Phoenix at Coventry: the building of a cathedral. London: Bles. Fig. 16: Location plan (Alte Pinakothek highlighted) Source: Author’s own Fig. 17: Site aerial (Alte Pinakothek highlighted) Source: Author’s own Fig. 18: Alte Pinakothek, restored section Source: Fig. 19: Alte Pinakothek, new interior space Source: Fig. 20: Alte Pinakothek, exterior detail Source: jpg Fig. 21: Location plan (Neues Museum highlighted) Source: Author’s own Fig. 22: Site aerial (Neues Museum highlighted) Source: Author’s own Fig. 23: Ruined Staircase Hall, post 1945 Source: Fig. 24: Ruined Staircase Hall, 1997 Source: Fig. 25: François Vase, cited by Chipperfield for the “Greek vase” analogy Source: Fig. 26: The Roman Room, Neues Museum Source: Author’s own


Fig. 27: Variety of concrete textures, new Staircase Hall, Neues Museum Source: Author’s own Fig. 28: New Staircase, Neues Museum Source: Author’s own Fig. 29: The Western Art Chamber, Neues Museum Source: Fig. 30: South Dome Room, Neues Museum Source: Author’s own Fig. 31: Presence of damage, Neues Museum Source: Author’s own Fig. 32: Columns with weathering exposed (right), Staircase Hall, Neues Museum Source: Author’s own Fig. 33: The Greek Court, Neues Museum Source: Author’s own Fig. 34: Northern exterior of the Neues Museum Source: Author’s own Fig. 35: Location plan (Museum of Natural History highlighted) Source: Author’s own Fig. 36: Site aerial (Museum of Natural History highlighted) Source: Author’s own Fig. 37: New section of facade Source: Author’s own Fig. 38: Joint between new and old Source: Author’s own Fig. 39: Sample section of new facade Source: Author’s own Fig. 40: Ruin Lust pamphlet Source: Author’s own


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