The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 7

A Neoclassical Ionic
column capital, British
Museum Rotunda.
THE RIGHT ANGLE JOURNAL

The issue of authenticity has long bewildered philosophers, cultural critics, and
laypersons alike.3 The meaning of authenticity is tied to notions of that which is
"authoritative, authorized, canonical, trustworthy, reliable, genuine, original, factual,
and real."4 The concept has relevance in numerous academic fields and contexts of
everyday life. Within antiquities, archaeology, art history, and museum studies, the
concept suggests reflection on the veracity of an object, site, or material form such
that its context, history, and story are clarified and expressed to the public. In philosophy, notably in the work of Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger, authenticity
conveys the idea that an individual could achieve a state of being uncontaminated
and generally unaffected by the influences, temptations, and misdirection offered by
the world at large.5
Within architecture and spatial design, the idea of authenticity may relate to principles
of process, time, detail, intent, and revision and may convey the notion that a building, space, or material form is presented to the public or client with interests greater
than those of the architect, designer, or firm in mind, such that the product "speaks"
to the public or client in ways that they understand.6 On its surface, the determination of authentic architecture could be seen as challenging, as there is much debate
as to what a particular form should look like and how it should function. The goal to
create an appropriate site on the hallowed grounds of the September 11th terrorist
attacks in New York City, for example, was challenging given the many competing
political, economic, and social interests surrounding the reconstruction of the World
Trade Center space.7
At more micro levels, architects deal with the challenges of authenticity in numerous aspects of their daily practice. The decision to offer siding that looks like wood
or flooring that resembles stone may fool the observer of a space, were they to only
look at the surfaces and not touch them. Architecture's concern with bridging theory
and practice, form and function, and other dichotomies could be best employed by
challenging everyday perceptions about what is appropriate in a given space. One of
the great possibilities of architectural authenticity may rest on the degree to which a
given building, space, or material venue connects with the interests, lifestyles, and
values of those who use, react to, and even transform the space. The palimpsest
of space, as it is reworked by those who use it, suggests that authenticity may be
established not in the final materialization of a space but in the more ephemeral ways
that people reimagine it.
The Complexity of Authenticity

On the surface, the idea of authenticity appears to be caught up in that which is given,
natural, real, simple. Architects and designers of space may appreciate the apparent simplicity of a form that they create, yet they understand that the reception, use,
and transformation over time of that form is a complex, if not indeterminate, matter.
One important reminder in the debate about authenticity is that a building, space, or
material design that appears to be authentic in one cultural context may not be so in
another cultural context. The debates about authenticity as a property in architecture
and space emerge, in part, from the contexts of material and ideational culture in the
field of heritage studies. Curiously enough, the goal of preserving "great" buildings,
monuments, and archaeological sites from the ravages of time, war, and natural
disasters is built upon a rigid definition of authenticity.8
Subsequent revisions of heritage guidelines, most notably, The Nara Document on
Authenticity, have shifted understandings of authenticity from an "inherent, non-negotiable, and verifiable" property 9 to more fluid contexts. As the document states, "It is
[...] not possible to base judgements of values and authenticity within fixed criteria.
On the contrary, the respect due to all cultures requires that heritage properties must
be considered and judged within the cultural contexts to which they belong."10 These
progressive views of heritage began to express the great accomplishments of culture
less as monolithic entities and more as processes, actions, even states of being.11 A
UNESCO World Heritage Site, such as the city of Verona, Italy, could begin to be seen
as more than a collection of buildings and forms of material culture. The question of

Genuine souvenir items
for sale at the Trevi
Fountain, Rome.
THE RIGHT ANGLE JOURNAL

The Right Angle | Winter 2019 | 7



The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019

Authenticity
Index to Advertisers
Locations
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - Intro
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - cover1
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - cover2
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 3
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 4
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - Authenticity
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 6
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 7
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 8
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 9
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 10
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 11
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - 12
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - Index to Advertisers
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - Locations
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - cover3
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2019 - cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0320
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0220
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0120
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0419
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0319
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0219
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0119
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0418
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0318
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0218
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0118
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0417
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0317
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com