Critical Architectural Heritage: Constructing heritage with(out) the Wanganui Native Land Court Building
Critical heritage is a theory and practice where heritage is defined as the active engagement of the past in the present. In critical heritage, building, sites, and places are not objects of heritage in themselves but are cultural tools that facilitate the performance of heritage. If heritage, particularly architectural heritage, is not considered to be a tangible object or building, then the discipline is opened to a wide variety of differing groups and identities, some of whom are currently disadvantaged by conventional practices of heritage. This thesis examines how the arguments of architectural heritage were performed in a case study of New Zealand heritage practice: the 2013 Environment Court hearing regarding the Wanganui Native Land Court Building. A quantitative content analysis of the hearing revealed the heritage arguments to be composed in five main patterns which emphasised: the significance of identity, built fabric, context, a combination of identity and context, and a combination of the built fabric and context. The patterns show that the significance, and use, of the built form varied in different heritage arguments. If the performative context of the Environment Court is acknowledged via critical heritage, then the patterns show how arguments of heritage were composed, particularly in relation to the built form. Reference to the Wanganui Native Land Court building was not a significant quantitative component in many of these patterns and, as such, the use of the building was primarily conceptual, rather than material. The Court’s decision privileges the built form as a physical resource which is scarce and irreplaceable. The decision is, in some ways, at odds with the lack of reliance on built form in the patterns.