About me
Bookshop

Get new posts by email.

About me

Conservation n’est pas préservation

The UK press is waiting with baited breath for publication of migration statistics at 09.30 today. Each outlet will then pick over the statistics and find a of presenting them which reinforces their pre-existing view of the world.

So, allow me to write preemptively about something completely different that’s due to be unveiled today, in a way which entirely reinforces my views.

Today, a major part of the work going into the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris is being unveiled, as the triangular structures that make up the framework of the choir and apse begin to be unveiled. These have been made using techniques dating back to the 1200s.

We’re supposed to be awed by this, but I can’t help but feel a little depressed. In the great tradition of cathedrals, Notre-Dame included, the French could have chosen to blend spectacular history with spectacular modernism, to have explored and redefined the meaning of the cathedral for the modern age. This could have become a beacon, something to rival La Sagrada Família for demonstrating how ancient traditions apply to the twenty-first century.

Instead, the response was “put it back as it was,” using centuries-old techniques to reconstruct a centuries-old building, neither truly preserving anything (it’s newly built) nor connecting it to the modern world (it was designed to work in the 13th century). Through striving to avoid controversy, the project also avoids relevance.

Pretending things are preserved in aspic is very rarely the best way to conserve them.


This song, which is somehow more than two decades old, has been in my head while I’ve been writing this. It has northing to do with either of today’s revelations, and yet somehow feels like it connects the two:


The image at the top is by Ranopamas on Flickr, used under this licence.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Post-a-day 2023, , , .

Recently published posts

‘Fallen leaves’ / 17 April 2024

A manifestly different outcome / 16 April 2024

Forgotten promises / 15 April 2024

Souter Lighthouse / 14 April 2024

Mul’s at the pub / 13 April 2024

The hazards of changing a battery / 12 April 2024




Random posts from the archive

Desktop app of the week: Delibar / 27 June 2012

Photo-a-day 312: Bow / 08 November 2012

Sycamore Gap / 29 September 2023

Doctor debrides the Times / 05 April 2006

ASCII Movies / 16 February 2005

Lewd, licentious yet lovely / 09 January 2005





The content of this site is copyright protected by a Creative Commons License, with some rights reserved. All trademarks, images and logos remain the property of their respective owners. The accuracy of information on this site is in no way guaranteed. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author. No responsibility can be accepted for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information provided by this site. Information about cookies and the handling of emails submitted for the 'new posts by email' service can be found in the privacy policy. This site uses affiliate links: if you buy something via a link on this site, I might get a small percentage in commission. Here's hoping.