An interview with Berlin architect Marc Jordi on reclaiming ancient architectural elements, mostly stone
Spolia are architectural elements originating from older buildings or monuments reclaimed for use in e.g. façades. Most spolia are made of stone due to its superior longevity. Peter Becker of Stone-Ideas.com interviewed Marc Jordi of Jordi & Keller architects, Berlin on the subject. Jordi incorporated spolia in the façade of buildings in the new historic center of Frankfurt/Main and in a building in Berlin-Mitte.
Stone-Ideas.com: What statement can an architect make with spolia?
Marc Jordi: Use of spolia from ancient buildings must make a statement beyond mere decoration. The fragments must remind us that a building stood at the very spot earlier. This is particularly important in Germany because so many heritage sites were destroyed during WWII. One could see this type of hindsight a didactic approach toward reading historic events. In the 19th century spolia were implemented mainly as decorative elements from foreign countries.
Stone-Ideas.com: From your experience, what is of particular importance when implementing spolia?
Marc Jordi: Preserving the heritage footprint, is, in my view, of utmost importance. In the case of our newly build „Zu den drei Römern“, Markt 40 in the historic center of Frankfurt, we left the blackened arch above the window as a sign of the war. Tour-guides stand here and tell tourists about the bombing and destruction of great portions of the city.
Stone-Ideas.com: Are spolia catalysts for story-telling and heritage?
Marc Jordi: Definitely. E.g.: there is a post complete with an iron ring formerly probably used to tie horses. This is the type of evidence that tells us a story and needs to be kept intact.
Stone-Ideas.com: Isn’t that Disneyland?
Marc Jordi: That would depend on how it is realized. We make sure that the old fragments remain at their original place and level when they are incorporated. It is important to ensure that the perspective of the beholder is satisfied. It’s all about showing respect for the craftsmen who created spolia. The main aim must be to preserve heritage respectfully. Its integration must be credible and honest..
Stone-Ideas.com: Speaking of durability – do spolia require special treatment?
Marc Jordi: Occasionally, cracks need careful stitching or gluing, loose parts need to be secured. As far as wind and weather are concerned, we sometimes protect projects with the aid of canopy constructions or jutting stories. Graffiti protection is generally advisable for the plinth.
Photos: Jordi & Keller Architects
(15.05.2019, USA: 05.15.2019)