Title of the dissertation

The significance of change in uncomfortable heritage conservation in Berlin


Prof. Dr. Sylvia Claus

Description of your research:

Heritage conservation is a process of negotiating between change and continuity, especially in urban contexts which are often sites of rapid socioeconomic change. The tendency to avoid change in terms of conservation can be found in the influential Charter of Venice, which emphasized maintaining monuments’ authenticity. Aligning with this position, we can see how heritage law is based on the idea of protecting heritage from modification. However, uncomfortable heritage (UH), a complex of forms, meanings, and functions that once represented dictatorial powers, has a significance that is very different from other types of heritage. The significance of conserving UH is not in praising their architectural forms or workmanship as many other heritage sites do. Since it has distinct characteristics from other heritage sites, the problem of how best to deal with or manage UH cannot be reduced to merely a question of maintaining its authenticity and avoiding changes.

What could be the meaning of change in uncomfortable heritage? How should heritage conservation be approached in response to UH’s distinct characteristics? This research project examines the notion of change in uncomfortable heritage. It focuses on the perpetrators’ sites that originated during the Nazi regime (1933–1945) and are protected as monuments by Historic Preservation Law Berlin (DSchG Bln) to discuss the decision-making process around preserving or eliminating urban landscapes associated with the uncomfortable past. Epistemologically it applies the interpretive approach, seeking to understand specific contexts and adopt more personal and flexible research structures. The main research methods would be mixed with case studies, archival research, and applying the techniques of observation, documentation and conducting interviews to gather data in order to reveal and uncover the hidden meanings of the phenomenon. By doing so, this research project argues that the meaning of ‘change’ in UH is different from that in other heritage sites and aims to explore the significance of change in the conservation of UH.

Short Bio:

I-Wei Wu is a PhD candidate in heritage studies at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg. As an Urbanist and multidisciplinary researcher, her thematic focuses include uncomfortable heritage, difficult heritage, perpetrator sites, urban design, participatory planning, and the intersection of how top-down system meets bottom-up initiatives. She holds a M.A. in heritage studies from Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Germany and a M.Sc. in building and planning from National Taiwan University. Her professional experience includes working as an urban planner in the private sector “The Urbanists Collaborative”, a civil servant in Taipei City Urban Regeneration Office, and a research assistant of documentaries in the field of cultural heritage for Taiwan Public Television Service.