Buildings are unruly and ever-changing entities involving numerous stakeholders. They consist of materials with different life expectancy, their original purpose might be outmoded, and they cannot (and should not) be protected to the same extent as, say, a painting or a prehistorical artefact. Differently from art and archeology, architectural provenance may be conceived of as a dynamic phenomenon, even as a forward-bound, creative instrument, applicable to understanding lost, present and future potentials of buildings that involves the economic value, social trajectories and material fabrics of architectural works. We transport the concept of provenance into architecture by taking it up in scale, applying it on architectural objects that apparently don’t move, and by recharging it temporally to contribute to a new societal understanding of the potentials of existing buildings, building material and components – their source of extraction, related environmental issues, their production facilities, transportation networks and the social milieu they were conceived within – and actively engage the already built within a circular economy.
Provenance enables the idea of a building as a nexus of cultural, material, social, technical, and geo-political practices, and invites a reexamination of topics spanning from material composition and real estate to historical reconceptualization and actual transformation work. Buildings may be understood as living archives, as depositories of material history and social life, and as a source to understand the origins, elements, materials, use, sentiment, and public debates that make up a building’s provenance.
Architectural provenance allows the reconsideration of core cultural and aesthetic concepts in relation to buildings, such as origins, authorship, ownership, legitimacy, copyright, authenticity, authentication, patina, collective memory, trauma and crises, uses, abuses, and trajectories of emotions.
The need to reuse and renew the existing building stock poses new challenges to the operations of an unsustainable building industry and an unprepared architectural profession. Situated in the distinctly multidisciplinary field of architecture, and involving leading experts from anthropology, art history, art, and digital humanities, our ambition is to theorize and demonstrate a new operative field through comprehensive studies of specific buildings and building materials.
With the architectural object placed center stage, an overall objective is to transpose debates on provenance into architecture based on the hypothesis that the concept is ripe to be rethought on a different scale, and that it can become instrumental in changing our attitude towards the obsolescence of buildings. Differently from art and archaeology, architectural provenance reaches beyond historical ownership records, and may be discussed as a dynamic process and as a creative instrument, applicable to understanding lost, present and future potentials of historical buildings that also involves the social trajectory of architectural works. A central hypothesis is that provenance may be understood as a cyclic and multi-trajectorial phenomenon rather than as a linear, retrospective documentation. This conceptual relocation will allow us to focus on materials and components rather than the completed work, and to establish useful tools for recycling the meaning and function of existing buildings.
The complex relationship between thinking and doing that characterizes architectural practice defines the scope of the project. Provenance Projected will contribute new theoretical insight as to how material culture is distributed, appropriated, altered, reinvented and evaluated according to various ideals and ethics. We insist that changing the state of things is dependent on new knowledge, new concepts, new vocabularies, new perspectives, and importantly, authoritative examples.