As any Vonnegut fan knows, Dresden was almost completely destroyed during World War II. The current cityscape is largely the result of post-war reconstruction by the East German government, who we have to thank for Gottfried Semper’s Opera, and Der Zwinger, and the majority of Dresden’s picturesque medieval fabric… but not every historic building was reconstructed so quickly: Dresden’s Frauenkirche had to wait until 2005 for its reconsecration.
Standing as a ruin for decades, the remains of the church were eventually collected and cataloged, and reconstruction began using as much of the original material as possible. Where the walls were still standing, they remained. Where stones were lost they were replaced, but those that retained some structural integrity were used in the reconstruction.
The result is a brilliant approach to restoration. Using the original stones where possible, the reconstruction does not deny history. The charred stones are an index of its destruction. By rebuilding the church’s form faithfully, the pious (and historicist) are placated. The resulting pixelated facade is shockingly contemporary.
I can appreciate the appeal of reconstruction – what stood as a ruin for decades is now once again a functioning church, and an anchor in a pleasant urban plaza.
Another approach is demonstrated by architects Wandel-Hoefer & Lorch, whose New Synagogue stands on the site of Gottfried Semper’s Synagogue, destroyed during Kristallnacht. Rather than reconstructing the lost building, they’ve created a new public plaza on the site, with a thin metal wire embedded in the pavement, indicating the extents of the original building, and a fragment of the original wall incorporated in the new…
Though these examples are highly charged, I think it’s important for practicing architects to be cognizant of the “use and abuse of history” for architecture. As our planet’s natural resources diminish, the availability and appeal of “tabula rasa” sites will diminish as well. Studying approaches to restoration, rehabilitation, and renovation may soon become very important for aspiring architects like myself….