DECONSECRATING A DOCTRINAL MONUMENT: Raymond M. Lemaire (1921–1997) and the Revisions of the Venice Charter | CLAUDINE HOUBART
In the 1960s, Raymond M. Lemaire established himself as a key figure of the international preservation world.2 Educated as an art historian in the 1940s, he soon learned of contemporary preservation problems thanks to his uncle, Canon Raymond Lemaire, author of La restauration des monuments anciens in the interwar period, and his father, architect for Belgium’s Ministry of Public Works.3 Introduced to Italian perspectives through an internship with Ambroggio Annoni in Milan in 1943 and his first meeting with Piero Gazzola in the Netherlands in 1947, Lemaire developed a close relationship with Italy that led him to play an important part in the Venice conference in 1964 and become the first secretary general of ICOMOS one year later.4
After Lemaire became professor emeritus in 1986, his personal archive was transferred to KULeuven, where he had been teaching since the 1940s. Documenting his international activities for ICOMOS, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe, as well as his many projects in the fields of conservation, architecture, and urbanism, this incredibly rich collection allowed us to not only formulate a hypothesis about Lemaire’s role in the writing of the Venice Charter, but also to give a critical look at this sacred doctrinal monument. Although he considered himself the ‘‘main author’’ of the document, Lemaire had indeed been one of the first to call for its revision, together with Piero Gazzola, only a few years after its almost unanimous adoption. Until the mid-1990s, he never stopped questioning its principles, especially given the broadening body of international world heritage, and, more practically, his personal field experience, particularly during the 1960s renovation of Leuven’s Great Beguinage. After clarifying Lemaire’s role in the writing of the charter, this paper examines the nature of his critiques and proposals, as well as their relevance for the current debates in the field of heritage preservation.