The Architecture of Copies | Copies of Architecture

September 22-23, 2022

22-23 September 2022, 9:30-16:00
Department of Art History, Aesthetics & Culture and Museology
School of Communication and Culture | Aarhus University | Aarhus, Denmark

In November 2001, the church of Södra Råda in southern Sweden, a 13th-century timbered structure decked with unique Gothic wall paintings, was destroyed in a fire. Following the catastrophe, the Swedish National Heritage Board’s decided to reconstruct the monument with the aim of learning about medieval building techniques through a panoply of reproductive activities, from the imitation of medieval wood-cleaving methods to 3-D model building. The recreation of the church itself was, however, rhetorically downplayed as a goal, since historicist reconstructions were deemed inauthentic. The painstakingly executed copying means were thus used to justify the faithful yet degraded – compared to the original – copied end, which is due for completion in June of 2022.

Purportedly lacking the ontological qualities of originals, copies, imitations, and simulacra have gathered associations of inferiority in Western thought starting with Plato. Yet in practice, diverse modalities of copying have long stood at the core of
the architectural profession: from the large-scale reuse and revivals of classical antiquity and through the educational circulation of ornamental details up to the present day, architecture has advanced through stealing, borrowing, and
appropriation as much as through innovation. Reproductive practices have also served as crucial elements in investigations of architectural remains and the conservation of heritage monuments, from the copying of ancient inscriptions by sixteenth-century antiquarians to the full-scale casting in plaster of entire ancient structures by nineteenth-century archeologists.

The phenomenon of the copy as it relates to architectural spaces has had innumerable expressions in different periods and cultures across the West: the Roman built world was dominated by imitation of Greek models; religious shrines, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, became the prototypes for churches in medieval Europe; the Early Modern period’s very establishment of architectural authorship was often supported by a selective appropriation of the Classical orders; the nineteenth century’s replications of medieval monuments was part of national- historical memory building; and modern and postmodern architecture heavily relied on repetition and pastiche respectively.

The Architecture of Copies /Copies of Architecture aims to revisit the borders between the copy and the prototype, acts of imitation and of variation, and to examine the knowledge production and preservation processes involved in the act of architectural replication and other attendant phenomena.

More information, program and registration can be found here.

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