Studio 9: The Continuing Lives of Objects

Studio brief

“Do not let us talk then of restoration. The thing is a Lie from beginning to end. You may make a model of a building as you may of a corpse, and your model may have the shell of the old walls within it as your cast might have the skeleton, with what advantage I neither see nor care: but the old building is destroyed, and that more totally and mercilessly than if it had sunk into a heap of dust.”
John Ruskin, 1880, The Lamp of Memory

“We are living in an incredibly exciting and slightly absurd moment, namely that preservation is overtaking us. Maybe we can be the first to actually experience the moment that preservation is no longer a retroactive activity but becomes a prospective activity.”
Rem Koolhaas, 2014, Preservation is Overtaking Us

This studio is interested in the continued life of objects, after their moment of creation. We will look specifically at works of architecture, art, design and what we might loosely term cultural objects, and ask at what point an object is ‘finished’. There will also be a consideration of the multiple agencies that continue to maintain or communicate objects and the changes in form, meaning and authorship that arise as an object continues its existence through time.

Debates about change and preservation have been long running in the field of architecture. You will take these as an introduction to thinking about ideas including authenticity, cultural value and the ways that works are maintained, challenged and compromised. We will follow these discussions into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, where you'll find contrasting practices of reproduction and conservation by digital data. These conversations will become troubled by emerging drives to preserve ephemeral artworks, and you'll learn of the Tate’s innovative research into the preservation and re-enactment of event-based art.

Dissertation projects might engage in a particular critical debate, explore a historical precedent, contest the history of a particular object, or propose a speculative plan for the future of a selected work or works – but you are in no way limited to these examples. To further your research you will be supported to make contact with specialists and experts in your chosen area of study.

This studio is open to all subject areas in The Cass but will be of particular relevance to students from architecture, fine art, interiors and 3D. Together, we'll combine practices and philosophies from the different disciplines, and find out what new thinking lands before us.

Outline of the first six taught weeks of study

We will mainly work as a discussion group with the occasional group trip. Workshops in writing and research skills will help you to develop your work and explore creative methods appropriate to your project.

  • Week 1: Introduction: histories and practices of conservation.
  • Week 2: To Do It Again: re-production, re-enactment, and digital afterlives.
  • Week 3: Group trip.
  • Week 4: Where is the Object? In place, in time, in representation (research skills workshop).
  • Week 5: Writing about things (writing workshop).
  • Week 6: Show and Tell: sharing of initial project ideas.


The initial suggested reading will introduce you to practices and debates from a range of perspectives and historical moments. Further to this, core reading will be set for each week, along with a range of projects and case studies for you to look at to help you apply your thinking.

  1. Koolhass, R, Otero-Pailos, J, Wigley, M. (2014) Preservation is Overtaking Us, New York: Columbia University Press
  2. Institute of Conservation (2016) Can objects die and if so who decides?
  3. Steyerl D, (2016) ‘A Tank on a Pedestal: Museums in an Age of Planetary Civil War’, e-flux Journal 70  
  4. Benjamin, W (1936) ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ in Harrison, C, and Wood, P (Eds.) (1992) Art and Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Oxford: Blackwell, pp 520-527
  5. Scott, F (2008) On Altering Architecture, London: Routledge
  6. Ruskin, J (1880) ‘The Lamp of Memory’ in The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Reprint, New York: Dover, 1989, pp 176-198
  7. Arrhenius, T (2012) The Fragile Monument: On Conservation and Modernity, London: Artifice

You might also want to explore the following:

Future Anterior Journal, University of Minnesota Press
The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM)


Danielle Hewitt studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College and received an MA in Architectural History from the Bartlett, University College London (UCL). She teaches on Critical and Contextual Studies (CCS) Architecture Year 2 and teaches a postgraduate architectural design studio at Oxford Brookes University.

Photograph titled "Conservation by reproduction: constructing a 3D facsimile of Tutankhamun's tomb".


Tutor Danielle Hewitt

Dissertation Studios