During a reading in Denver, CO, poet Gary Snyder remarked, “You don’t have to understand architecture to walk into a building.” That struck me as fascinating and truthful. No one needs to completely understand engineering, carpentry, or craftsmanship to be able to use the product of all that knowledge.
However, perhaps knowing about all the energy, time, and effort that goes into a product would help people hold it more sacred. This carelessness is at the heart of John Ruskin’s complaint. Instead of preserving, humans attempt to restore.
After several restorations, can we still call something original? When does an original become not so? A restored entity is much like a copy of a copy, either in terms of photocopies or CDs (or even cassette tapes–yes, dating myself). The newer versions corrupt the original piece in quality and even in spirit.
As Atlas and Lowenthal noted that we cannot recreate the aura of a quote, and therefore cannot convey true reality, Ruskin believes that the original spirit of architecture cannot be reproduced. Therefore, restoration, according to Ruskin, is destruction, and the need to restore is really the need to destroy.
The solution here is then preventative care. Instead, we need to maintain so that we do not need to restore.
As for the faultiness in a copy of a copy of copy, I give you a scene from Multiplicity:
Ruskin, John. “The Lamp Of Memory.” The Seven Lamps Of Architecture. 1880.