Jeffrey Schnapp opened up with the paradoxical existence of a “modern” monument: “if it is a monument, it can’t be modern; if it is modern, it can’t be modern”. Although a monument is meant to represent or commemorate a certain group of people or an event that took place, the passing of time is inevitable. As time passes by, ideologies and cultural norms change; and as a result, structures that once seemed to appropriately and accurately representative of the nation as a whole are outdated. Schnapp implied that all structures, once constructed, are inherently out of date because they are historical objects: something that is built one day, is out of date the next. Although certain structures, specifically monuments, might be out of date as time passes, the issue of what to do with the piece of architecture still exists. Is it right to destroy a piece of architecture that may hold some cultural value? Is it right to leave a structure that represented past “evil” untouched? Although this decision varies case by case, the speaker gave an interesting example, citing the Bolzano victory monument. Despite potentially having a “bad” meaning, the monument in Bolzano itself is beautiful. Instead of destroying the monument, which would potentially take away from the cultural identity of Italy, the structure was kept; however, certain features were added as a “compromise”. A ring attached to one of the columns was intentionally added to throw off the balance of the structure. Although this seemed to be a suitable compromise for the population of the city, Bolzano was divided. Because the city has both a high density of citizens who are Italian, as well as individuals of German decent, reactions to the “new” monument vastly varied. For the native Italians, the people were furious. As Schnapp noted, this monument was constructed out of Italian pride for their country; with their beloved structure vandalized by a “ring”, countless articles and editorials were published in protest. While much of the Italian population of the city was frustrated and viewed this as an act of “delinquency”, it’s interesting to view other demographics of the Italian population and their response to the “vandalism”. Germans, many of whom were descendants of World War II veterans, living in Italy responded accordingly: they loved it.
Schnapp ended his presentation with a few closing thoughts about monuments and their legacy. According to the speaker, many monuments that once flourished seem to generally lose their meaning as time goes by. Generation after generation, people become less attached, as the story surrounding the monument is lost and manipulated. So what will happen? Will these monuments disappear into the landscape? In all likelihood, yes. While landmarks do play an important role in shaping the culture of a certain nation during a certain time, all landmarks have a time limit. As the speaker stated, architecture must serve for the living, not the dead: cities can’t be tombstone. Instead, architecture must be continually updated and revamped to fit the culture, yet at the same time, preserving the memories of the past. Paradoxical.