Lucia Allais

The Italo-globalization of preservation

Preservation has been one of modern Italy’s most successful exports. In the 20th Century especially, generations of foreign specialists have trained in Italian schools and sites, Italian laboratories have pioneered new research in materials science, and countless Italian experts have been dispatched on heritage missions across the world. This influence has spread not only through technical transfers but also via intellectual channels. A majority of international preservation charters have been authored by Italian theorists. Conversely, Italy has served as testing ground for a wide range of reconstructive practices. In the golden days of postwar anti-urbanization, groups like Italia Nostra even leveraged this international attention to finance their activism. But since the 1970s, a disjunction has grown between the state of Italy’s cultural heritage and the Italian preservation dogmas taught worldwide. Spectacularization at home, sobriety abroad; decay at home, intervention abroad—such are the dilemmas of “Italo-globalization”. The norms that were invented in a spirit of experimentation are now being brought home to the Italian cultural imaginary.

This talk addreses this phenomenon in two ways: through a brief history of Italy’s contribution to the growth of preservation as an international practice, and through two case studies—the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini and the archaeological site of Pompeii—which were reconstructed with international assistance in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Although (or maybe because) they were completed in exceptional circumstances, these projects became normative precedents, and arguably inaugurated a new “exceptional” temporality by which to measure and experience architectural history worldwide.


Lucia Allais

Architectural historian and theorist, is Assistant Professor of Architecture at Princeton University. Her work addresses the relations between architecture and political institutions in the modern period, especially in a global context. She has been published in the journals “Perspecta”, “Volume”, “Log” and “Grey Room”, and the edited volumes “Governing by Design”, “Multiple Signatures”, “Formless Finder” and “Global Design History”. She has received fellowships from the Princeton Society of Fellows, the Graham Foundation, the Krupp Foundation, the CASVA, and the Radcliffe Institute. A member of the Aggregate Collaborative and an editor of Grey Room, she recently curated the installation “Legible Pompeii” at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale. She is writing a history of monument survival and international bureaucracy in the 20th Century, titled Designs of Destruction.

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