Track 3: Conservation of modern and post-modern heritage
The Spanish city of Lima, Peru was founded in 1535 over a prehispanic cultural landscape. Over time, it underwent numerous expansions and transformations, both catalyzed by and in response to events that brought on significant social, political and economic changes.
The 20th century witnessed some of the most dramatic transformations, from the modernist interventions of the 1940’s through 1970’s, to a period of decay (late 1970’s-early 1990’s) and, starting with the recognition of the historic city center as a World Heritage Site (WHS, 1988-1991), a process of revival and rehabilitation based on understanding the city as heritage, which continues to this day. However, rather than understanding historic Lima as an urban palimpsest of values, and identities, the World Heritage recognition privileges the Colonial and early Republican city, primarily realized during the 16th – 19th centuries, as the most significant values to be preserved. This tends to marginalize Modernist interventions as intrusions into the historic fabric, even though modifications to these sites are obligated to follow the procedural mandates of the WHS.
Many of the iconic Modern buildings in the WHS are commercial, mixed-use buildings, with many owners and stakeholders. The ownership structure, along with a general lack of guidelines for how to address issues of sustainability, accessibility and resilience regarding modern resources – particularly within a WHS whose declaration of value omits Modernism – creates conditions that discourage good conservation stewardship, as well as the necessary investments required to sustain and enhance the properties. A viable future for Modern heritage in downtown Lima requires engaging the challenges of the social, political, and regulatory apparatus, in order to facilitate sound technical solutions that reflect critically on the value of Modern buildings and sites as interventions within the context of the WHS.
This paper will address some of the challenges and opportunities of addressing Modernism within the WHS through the case of the iconic Atlas building, designed by architects Walter Weberhofer and Jose Alvarez-Calderon (1953-1955) and located in the Theatre Plaza area. Containing shops, offices and housing, and distinguished by its sensitive massing and finely scaled façade articulation, Atlas relates with delicacy to the street and its urban neighbors. Despite years of neglect and piecemeal interventions, Atlas remains an extraordinary example of an unabashedly modern building sensitive to and contextual with the surrounding historic city. Referencing documents from UNESCO, ICOMOS and APT, we will posit a rehabilitation strategy that starts with culturally situating Atlas as a modern resource within the WHS, while developing a robust conservation plan that strategically balances contemporary enhancements against the underlying values to be identified and maintained as the material, social, legal and economic challenges facing its renewal are addressed, helping create a new stewardship paradigm for WHS.