Heritage revisited : an examination of the built environment's historiography, preservation, and meaning
MetadataShow full item record
The aim of this work is to understand how certain public buildings play an essential role in the evolution of cultural identity over time. Its main approach distinguishes the denotation of tangible heritage from the connotation of its intangible counterpart. These terms are not understood through semiotics, but, through phenomenology. In other words, meaning is not transmitted by an object; it is adjudicated by a subject. In this sense, the phenomenological experience of such buildings is divided in two: perception brings forth an initial denotation of some universal validity; while memories and dreams engender connotations that are rooted in specific spatiotemporal conditions. In this model, denotation stems from the tangible aspects of heritage, while connotation grows from its intangible dimension. To examine the interaction of these components over time, three case studies are surveyed: Rome's Pantheon, Teotihuacan's Sun Pyramid, and Granada's Alhambra. Their examination begins with an analysis of their basic, primordial denotation, as "centers of power." This type of analysis is followed by a condensed history, which identifies the physical transformations that each building experienced over time. Lastly, a series of context companions present a horizon of expectations, from which multiple users at a given time may have received inspiration to elaborate different connotations of meaning. These sections are portrayed as "glimpses" of intellectual history and literary criticism. Their approach is mostly driven by Wilhelm Dilthey's theory of worldviews and Hans Robert Jauss's reception theory. Each case study suggests a different characterization of an overall historical outcome, associated with the cultural evolution of specific groups: the Pantheon reflects some sense of continuity, for Western Civilization; the Sun Pyramid conveys an overwhelming sense of loss, for Mesoamerica; and Alhambra displays a pervasive sense of exclusion, for al-Andalus. The spirit behind these characterizations strives to understand the modalities in which heritage and cultural identity are shaped by the passage of time. Its goal is to increase our awareness about the fragility of the intangible heritage, when it is separated from its tangible substrate.