A guest feature by Littlestone.
Looking at restoration projects across the globe one thing seems certain – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, each site having ‘suffered’ differently, and sometimes at different times, in its history. That fact might influence any decision as to when (and how much) restoration should be applied to any given site (or to any given monument at any point in time). For example –
Statue of the taller of one of the two Bamiyan Buddhas in 1976 before being destroyed by the Taliban. Source Wikipedia. Image credit Marco Bonavoglia
The Bamiyan Buddhas.
Most of us know what happened to them and who was responsible for their destruction, but what should happen there next. There are three (maybe more) options –
1) Other than several thousand fragments of stone the statues themselves have gone and that’s it (at least that’s present UNESCO policy).
2) Try to reassemble the fragments and restore the statues.
3) Preserve the original fragments (perhaps in a museum and as near as possible to their original position) but commission the sculpting of new statues from appropriate sources.
Some arguments for and against various restoration options at Bamiyan are here.
Anyone who’s seen photos of the fragments will know what a monumental task it would be to put them together again (and is Afghanistan politically stable enough at present for that to happen). Commissioning new statues (eventually) however would provide work for both the local Hazara people, and others, while giving back to the area a tourist/pilgrimage attraction which it has so sadly lost. How far the (new) statues should reflect the originals is another matter (though nonetheless an important one). For example, should the face (destroyed in earlier times) on the main statue be re-sculptured.
The Euston Arch.
To quote from The Euston Arch Trust website –
“The Euston Arch was a powerful symbol of the optimistic spirit of the Victorian railway. Its demolition in the 1960s confirmed that blandness and lack of imagination had replaced the heroic vision of the past. Completed in May 1838, it was the centrepiece of Euston Station, the world’s first main line terminus in a capital city. Built on a huge scale, it symbolized modernity and new links between London and the north. It was the first great monument of the railway age, which Britain pioneered.
Demolition of The Euston Arch in 1962
“The Arch was demolished in 1962 after a short and sharp campaign to save it. Sanctioned by a philistine administration, the demolition now seems shocking and is widely regarded as a terrible mistake. In a story stranger than fiction, most of the stones from the Arch ended up at the bottom of a river in east London. The survival of much of the original material from the Arch, as well as detailed drawings, means that it can be faithfully restored, returning to Britain a masterpiece of international significance. …rebuilding the Arch would regenerate Euston in the best possible way, attracting investment and creating a great heritage asset for the wider community.”
There really does seem to be only one option here. As most of the stones still exist, and there are both photographs and detailed drawings of the Arch before its demolition, it should definitely be restored to its former sate (if not exactly on its former site).
Is there any more to say about the restoration of Avebury – some say no restoration, others say a little, while others say it should be completely restored. To quote from The Euston Arch website again, but with Avebury in mind –“Sanctioned by a philistine administration, the demolition now seems shocking and is widely regarded as a terrible mistake. The survival of much of the original material from the Arch, as well as detailed drawings, means that it can be faithfully restored, returning to Britain a masterpiece of international significance.” Of course Avebury and the Euston Arch are not identical examples of monuments that have been partially or completely destroyed but there are similarities.
Fallen stone in the south-east quadrant of Avebury
I’ll leave it there as far as Avebury is concerned but surely, surely, if nothing else we can agree on the re-erection of just one stone at Avebury. That being the case which stone might we like to see re-erected and how best might we go about making that happen. My own preference is the one above in the south-east quadrant (number 78 in the map here I think (map from Avebury: A Present from the Past website).
Other people will naturally have their own preferences.