|Abstract:||Human beings imbue meaning into the built environment using their experiences and perceptions of architecture and the destinations they visit as a way to understand their place in the world. Historic architecture draws tourists and travelers with the promise of forging a connection to the past. As we enter an age of building reuse, especially in historic urban contexts, the impacts of those who visit these places to draw connections becomes more important to the economic, political and social aspects of design. For Barcelona, it means efforts to accommodate record visitor numbers and the booming tourism market by calling for new design interventions to major thoroughfares, museums, and other attractions. The Museu Picasso and the Palau de la Música Catalana are examples of re-interpretation of place with new presentation of space and facade. Both complexes have expanded and renovated their historic edifices to make room for growing collections of artifacts and populations of visitors. Honest attempts at solving visitor overload have turned into overhauls of the urban approach and historic quarter context. This dissertation research addresses the perceptions of the tourists who travel to these sites with hopes of historic encounters but are greeted instead by modern façades, long lines, and changing urban context. Different approaches to preservation and adaptive reuse influence the way visitors interact with, experience, and perceive historic spaces.
Architecture is charged with giving context to culture and helping to shape collective memory and individual experience. As the architecture of today and of the past becomes history of the next age, we will rely on preservation and restoration efforts to keep our heritage alive. As a result of time-space compression, human beings seek to understand the world around them not only through media, but in person. Once a privilege for only the wealthy on the Grand Tour, tourism has expanded to many mobile classes of people and promotes a global economy and interchange of ideas and cultures. Demands to see historic places before they disappear due to conflict, environmental change, or even overuse, drive the influx of tourist movement in the last thirty years. To accommodate the escalation of individuals, many tourist-historic sites have expanded and renovated their complexes, sometimes building contemporary additions. These additions foster the showcasing of larger collections of artwork, expansion of visitor services, and notoriety in the design community. However, oftentimes, the visitor’s experience of the place is lost in translation when design imperatives, fame, and finances become priorities.
As historic objects and places (architecture and the built environment) depend on visitor income for their continued management and care, it is important to understand how both experience and object authenticity influence decisions made by tourism and site mangers. The two categories are not entirely independent within the context of a heritage site. Through both tourism and heritage lenses, authenticity, or the sense of trueness to character, may be studied to promote understanding of the interaction visitors will have with each place. Wang (1999) contributes to the notion of preservation through his concept constructive authenticity. We may infer that reproduction of an object can include architecture and thereby heritage sites. Further, existential authenticity as a perception of self may be related to existential phenomenology and theories regarding sense of place to complete an understanding of the personal interaction of tourists with their destinations. The perceptions of the visitors of today will affect the way in which we may perceive heritage in the future. Therefore, this study is conducted through a lens of transactional perceptions of sense of trueness to character of the built environment.
Using researcher and participant-led photo-elicitation, tourist interviews, and site observation, I investigate what factors in historic building renovation affect tourist reactions to the preservation and adaptive reuse efforts at the Museu Picasso and Palau de la Música Catalana. This approach is unique to design research as this study brings the haptic and socio-spatial elements of built environment studies together in an unprecedented way. The findings illustrate that historic architectural details and entry sequences promote an often unconscious appraisal of sense of trueness to character which influences experiences of tourist-historic environments. Participants indicated the details of key importance to support their sense of an experience of genuineness. Details and entry were perceived through many different lenses, including culture and background. The meanings associated with the object (building) and the details impacted how visitors felt about their overall experience. The cultural context and history related to the architecture influenced the visitors’ sense of trueness to character because they were able to engage the significance those details had for the place and assess the influence of those details on their experience of the tourist-historic site. This study indicates, therefore, that understanding perceptions of experience, physical details, and cultural context ensures the future of historic architecture.