To advance the celebration and conservation of the mid-century modern heritage of Canberra - USA

USA
Professions
To advance the celebration and conservation of the mid-century modern heritage of Canberra - USA featured image

Conclusions & Actions:

Winston Churchill famously said in his 1943 address to the Chamber of Commons, ‘We shape our buildings and afterwards, our buildings shape us’. Buildings are not just a collection of bricks and mortar: they have meanings and associations, they are characters in stories, observers of events and backdrops to life. They are designed, built, used and loved by people. Preserving buildings is an important and relevant action. It is a way of contributing to the advancement of society and the liveability of our cities. 

Modernist architecture is characterised by its sense of bravery and optimism, pushing the boundaries and thinking outside the proverbial box. As an industry and society, we should take inspiration from Modernism when caring for heritage places from this era. We need to be brave, bold, creative and innovative in the way we preserve Modernism and communicate its value to the community. It is our responsibility to care for the best of the generations before us, just as it will be the responsibility of the next generations to care for our legacy. These ideals are important to conserve, as they not only relate to a time in the past, but also give us clues about how we can work towards a better and more sustainable future.

As discussed in this report, conserving and celebrating modernist heritage places presents many challenges, but also many opportunities. Many of the findings of my Fellowship were new, exciting and immediately implementable, and some of the findings were in fact confirmations of things I knew, or at least thought I knew. It was motivating to understand that many of my perceptions, theories and beliefs about Modernism were demonstrable outside of Canberra and Australia and are easily supported by evidence.

In summing up the immense information collected, the Fellowship research has demonstrated the power of Modernism and heritage to:

  • be fun and creative
  • transform a city in decline
  • engage a community
  • promote city pride 
  • have a direct economic benefit
  • address broader issues such as sustainability and social equity
  • be a strong tourism product
  • be an asset to the city rather than a burden

With regard to effective advocacy, my Fellowship research revealed that:

  • One type of advocacy is not inherently better than another and a multi-angled approach across different platforms is the most successful way to advocate and engage.
  • The adage of ‘many hands make light work’ rings true in understanding how different types of advocacy and advocates can work together to address advocacy challenges.
  • We need people doing the academic work — like the Getty Conservation Institute. This science and research underpin what we know, and what we are celebrating.
  • We need grassroots and individual activism: people to share and shout about what they believe in and be the faces for the places we are trying to save.
  • We need event-based advocacy to enhance opportunities for appreciation and understanding, to bring likeminded people together to share messages beyond existing audiences.
  • We need advocacy organisations as vehicles to collect support, bring people together and provide a collective voice in legal proceedings, in media and in the public eye.

Keywords: Modernism, architecture, heritage, preservation, advocacy, design, tourism

Fellow

Amy Jarvis

Amy Jarvis

Amy Jarvis

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