Acknowledging the Dignity of Architectural Heritage

Adding a Fourth Virtue to the Vitruvian Triad

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Addressing the complex legacies of the past in architectural education and built constructions, calls for a reconsidering of the principles of architectural design and conservation. The current challenges of housing, sustainable development and heritage adaptation present huge dilemmas for architects. Yet today architects are only by exception trained to detect heritage values prior to drafting their interventions for adaptive reuse or upgrading. To this day, Western architectural thinking is influenced by the Vitruvian triad Firmitas, Utilitas and Venustas, and the truncated maxim ‘Form Follows Function’ as disseminated by the protagonists of the Modern Movement. These established a divide between the design for new-build and the care of already existing buildings. This divide is marked by the two Charters of Athens: the 1931 Carta del Restauro adopted at the First International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments, and La Chartre d’Athènes presented by Le Corbusier as a result of the 4th CIAM Congress on the Functional City (1933). This paper attempts to bridge the identified divide by adding the idea of ‘Dignitas’ (dignity) as an equal virtue to the Vitruvian triad. Though not new for itself, this concept may aid to raise awareness of architectural dignity in extant buildings.