Category Archives: Preservationist

”It has to happen now, or I don’t give a f**k…”

It’s early in the morning and I’m sat on the train. Just under three hours ahead of me before I reach Göteborg. Normally it’s quite a droll, but this morning I’m eavesdropping on a few retired train drivers discussing the state of the world and the development of our society. Their rural mentality might not impress me overly, but there has been a few good points. Intrestingly enough, they’ve been similar to the ones presented in the cultural section of today’s Svenska Dagbladet. I’m not yet sure what that says about Svenska Dagbladet and their reporters. Nor what it sais about me critizising the ”rural mentality” of the ex train drivers. Maybe their hands-on way of life is actually the healtier alternative.

Nevertheless, the thoughts their discussion has given rise to are on the need for instant results and immediate satisfaction in todays younger generation. A generation I’m part of, too, I might add. The generation of smart phones, Google, Facebook, Twitter and reality TV. The generation that prides itself of not having the time to read a book cover to cover, where it is cool to party ’till five in the morning and then be at the law firm or meeting a presumptive PA at six-thirty, ”tweeting” away to all ones followers  (what was once called ”friends”) in the cyber reality about how trashed and hungover one is while trying to get ones act together in a bathroom at a Starbucks. This is the generation where a long process, preparation and serious commitment is not worthwhile since it is too boring to wait for a result that might take longer than a week to get. This is a generation where platitudes like ”Oh, I’m sooo in to contemporary art and 21st century design” really means ”I looked at the picturs in the latest issue of Vanity Fair and, actually, read some of the text too!” When these are the people that will govern our countries in the future, no wonder the privatisation will continue being at the top of the agenda.

The problem is when this way of thinking amalgamates with the serious questioning of values, ideas, principles. The questioning is at the core of all serious cultural debate. Regardless if it’s seen as highbrow or not. The debate concerning the future of the Arts and humanities need a longterm analysis, a longterm plan and people comitted to being comitted. The Arts need people who are prepared to spend time reading, writing, taking in ideas new and old, cogitate, ponder, suggest. I am not as naive as suggesting the intelectual cafés’ of  1960s Paris ought to return with Sartre-like followers taking the lead, but they had a place then and something similar might have a place today. Resulting articles and papers being discussed widely ought to be part of the societies curriculum. Schools all over Europe have started giving classes in Rhetoric since it is important for the young generations to learn how to advocate a view in today’s individualistic society. That’s all good and sound. But, I wonder, how come it is important to advocate if you have no tools to analyse with and to reach a view to advocate for? Is it sound to be able to shout just for the cause of shouting? Not likely.

Since I am the one writing this, the focus is obviously the debate on the Arts. There are numerous examples I hope to be able to write about where the lack of cultural detabe have resluted in disaster for small theaters, opera companies, book publishers, buildings of importance (though not to the State) and so forth. Though for now, my question is if we are prepared to live in a ”quick fix” world where nothing, least of all the so called “intellectual” questions and thoughts, is allowed to take time and be given space. With the rife mindset of today it is as if we say; if it’s not instant success, it’s worthless. And I wonder, is that really true?

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Filed under 80-talister, Art, Contemporary Art, Culture, Instant success, Literature, Preservationist, Young generation

Does it always have to be for our own financial gain?

As a preservationist this is a question I often ask myself. When I’m driving around the Swedish countryside I see the most amazing houses. Small cottages, big mansions, dilapidated rectories. Often they stand empty and majestic in the most stunning surroundings and not a single soul seems to care. Overgrown orchards and tiredlooking flowerbeds that hasn’t been tended to for a very long time. The cheap plastic paint is falling off façades by the bucket load, and the panelling needs looking after.  It all gives the impression of being weary and forgotten. And in the midst of all this, the beauty lies. Like a budding flower, with the right amount of love and attention these houses will bloom if someone just decides to take care of them. But it is a costly business, so who will?

In general, municipalities, borough councils or the state won’t do anything as long as they can avoid the responsibility. On the other hand, why would they. It is not (always) their immediate fault that the imaginary building for this post is in such a dire state. What happened to the responsibility of the owner? But one has to remember, we can never know what the whole story behind a dilapidated building is. There might be a single owner who could not care less, but there are numerous examples with siblings or cousins having been left houses in a will and they can’t agree what to do with it, so they simply let the house stand empty. A shame, but that’s a reason as bad as any I guess.

This takes me back to my initial query; does caring for a house or a building always have to be for our own financial gain? It is as though if we can’t sell a house for a healthy net profit in a few years it is not worth having. If we can’t make money out of refurbishing there is no reason to invest. But what about our built national heritage? What about the importance of a specific regional architecture, or building style which is a more prudent phrase for the vernacular buildings in some parts of the European countryside. What about preserving localy important buildings like old dairies, post offices or railway stations. They might not have been used for a hundred or so years, but does that mean they are of no importance to us today? Hardly.

This is where the hardcore preservationist comes in to play. When someone is prepared to invest their own hard earned time and money in a house simply to save it from demolition or from falling down, other people shake their heads and call them ”crazy idealists” and, sometimes, less flattering names. Though, when the village post office from 1863 is saved for the future these same people stand looking on, saying how marvellous it all looks and isn’t it great some people are prepared to preserve these building for our grandchildren and future generations to come. And it certainly is. There are times when we have to be prepared to save cultural national heritages, also the built, even if we might not become millionaires on the spot. But our local region, our town or village will for sure have become much richer. That can be reason enough.

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Filed under Architecture, Architecture Matters, Byggnadsvård, Preservationist