When Tony Judt`s “Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945” was published in autumn 2005 I was an official of the aspiring European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While we noted the failure, in two referenda in the Netherlands and France, of the Constitutional Treaty we remained optimistic that the postwar development, the emergence and consolidation of a European way of combining human rights and democracy with economic, social and cultural prosperity, so aptly described by Judt, would prevail. Few would have imagined the state in which the EU and Europe as a whole would find themselves only ten years later. With the hindsight of 2017, Judt´s book can be considered the history of a period that ended when the book came out.
The current unravelling of what we believed were European postwar and post-cold war certainties affects as a result more than the political and legal sphere. Postwar architecture, public space and cultural production and distribution are equally unravelling. From being a living ubiquitous reality in Europe´s social, political, legal and cultural fabric and incontournable buildings in our cities, “postwar” has become heritage that requires care and protection – within a few years only.
Possibly only few years are left to save the most important aspects: fundamental and human rights, political freedom and pluralism, the autonomy of culture, open and regulated markets in public spaces, animal welfare and the protection of the environment, to name but a few … concretely (#sosbrutalism) buildings and spaces are rapidly disappearing.
A humble and modest contribution has become the Initiative Brutalismus im Rheinland. Since summer 2016 I have helped to raise awareness about postwar heritage in the Rhineland (as part of a global movement with Facebook groups of almost 50 000 members). On 14 March 2017 we will present the initiative in Cologne with a public event at the Haus der Architektur Köln and to anchor our work firmly in the heritage and conservation tradition of our region.