The Experience and Beauty in the Cultural Heritage Discourse: Reflections from two case studies

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Abstract

The cultural heritage in the built environment is developing discursively, and the
concept is today exposed more variously than a decade ago when I explained in
the doctoral dissertation through a case study how the place, the process and the
experience were arising in the Foucaldian discourses. My on-going research on
the change of the cultural heritage discourse (kulttuuriympäristö) is showing how
the designations are changing and the concepts re-defined. The national strategy
on the cultural heritage (2014) is emphasizing everybody’s right on the good
cultural heritage environment and also the responsibilities to take care of that.
When we now share the idea that the cultural heritage in the built environment
is belonging to all of us, the places and experiences of all are also important.
Nevertheless, in the end is the experience or the aesthetic experience exactly,
really important when opinions are contradictory and the crucial decision has to
be made: to preserve or to dismantle the building? The absence of aesthetics in
decision-making has been extremely explicit since the recession of the 1990s
and public discussions and political decision-making seem to involve mostly
economic arguments. Architects are using the experience, meaning the aesthetic, bodily experience or referring to art, in their professional speech but to speak about “the beauty experience” or able to emphasize the meaning of beauty in architecture, and also in the environment is usually left outside the discussions.
The experience, together with reflection, following Dewey, is very important in
the speech of teaching architects. In the cultural heritage discourse, narratives, experiences and local stories from bottom-up are arising but do we talk about the aesthetics or the experiences of beauty in the built environment? In this paper, the aim is to discuss about the meaning of experiences and the role of beauty in cultural heritage discourse. The method used here is the case study research, and two local cases from different decades will be introduced to demonstrate how miniscule or completely absent aesthetic argumentation in decision making processes can remain, and how different the solutions ended up, though both cases concerned the question of built cultural heritage. The central question in my on-going research project on the changing cultural heritage discourse is: How “the aesthetic experience” is appearing today in the cultural heritage discourses? This paper aims to cast light on that and tries to answer especially this: How did the cultural heritage discourse evolve from different experiences; and how did ugliness become important rather than beauty in the case studies?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-74
Number of pages22
JournalArchitectural Research in Finland
Volume2
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • aesthetics
  • cultural heritage
  • discourse
  • experience
  • beauty
  • case study

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