Modern Heritage and the Democratic Dilemma

Victor Edman

Project Period: 2014-2015
Type: Senior research project
Program Area(s): Critical Historiography


The project examines the conflicting ideologies in the heritage sector around the turn of the century 2000, with a focus on the emerging concept of modern architecture as a potentially democratic heritage. The objective is to shed light on the origins of a controversial issue of heritage representation, and to suggest perspectives that can be useful in the further processing of the problems.

During the post-modern era of the late 1900s, the demand for legal protection and conservation of modern architecture was a recurrent issue. Both international and national organizations joined forces to draw the attention to this legacy, a campaign that reached success by the end of the century, when a number of iconic buildings were extensively restored. The breakthrough of modern heritage coincided with a growing demand for more inclusive attitudes to heritage. The established canon of elite architecture, combined with a more or less explicit nationalist agenda, was thus challenged in favour of the idea of a democratic representation, based on everyday environments. As a result the heritage sector became an area of conflicting ideologies around the turn of the century 2000, when especially modern architecture was at stake.

The project is focused on the ideological shift within the heritage sector, both internationally and in Sweden, around the turn of the century 2000. The demand for a democratic heritage, with a much wider range of objects than the traditional canon, met with an established heritage management, based on academic selection, strict legislation and limited economic means. The project analyses the theoretical and
methodological heritage issues that were discussed at the time, with a view to the areas that still remain unsolved, for instance how to deal with the large housing areas and other structures of the post-war era or how to handle questions of national representation.

Researcher(s) Bio and Publications