“’Heritage is not just what must be ‘preserved’ and ‘saved’; it is also what can be ‘built’ and ‘created’ out of a creative engagement with the myriad intertwining histories,” (Ang, Ien 2001 p.3). Often the definition of what the term heritage refers to can be misunderstood or outdated. Dr Ien Ang goes onto share their personal interpretation on history and heritage, which is that the contemporary definition of heritage isn’t so much objects and artifacts from the past that need to be preserved. Heritage is more a representation of the elements groups of people value from the past and how this translates into the community that is present today.
Pont Des Arts is a Victorian industrial pedestrian footbridge in Paris. Constructed between the years of 1802 and 1804, the steel metal bridge was constructed under Napoleons reign. The bridge then suffered attacks both during World War I and II, which led to its collapse and closure. In the 1980’s, an identical bridge was built in its place.
A couple of years later in 2008, the first lock appears on panels of the Pont Des Arts Bridge. This sparked a large symbolic and artistic initiative to attach a padlock to the panels signifying love and commitment called ‘Love Locks’. This grew largely popular, due to its location in the city, which is renowned as being the city of love. This practices although however dates back more than 100 years to a Serbian love tale from World War I, and is brought back to the present day. (Rubin, A 2014)
The Pont Des Arts Bridge is iconic to the city of Paris, both due to its traditional Victorian style and history but also because of its contemporary purpose of being a platform to symbolize and express love. It can be argued by many that this architectural piece is considered ‘heritage’ in relation to the stock standard definition of the term. In fact, UNESCO’s lists Paris’ quay’s under its list of world heritage sites, which means the Pont Des Arts is apart of that list. However if looking at the term ‘heritage’ from a more contemporary standpoint and that of Dr Ien Ang’s, it’s interesting to look at the interaction between tourists, who visit Paris and the cities traditional ‘heritage’. Tourists visiting the city of Paris play such a large role to the cities identity. Paris reported the most popular destination among travellers in 2014 according to statistics reported by the French authorities, with more than 32 million tourists visiting the city.
The locks are, in a way not only just symbols of both expression and love but also a symbol of the modern day Paris. A city that is the home for millions of tourists, who feel the need to express themselves by leaving behind ‘love locks’. Ang goes onto state the importance of heritage containing a sense of community, diversity and something that masses can contribute to (Ang, Ien 2001) This idea is reflected quite nicely in the initiative of the love lock practice and the Pont Des Arts Bridge. It’s an interesting visual reflection on the cities diverse and every growing contemporary history paired together with the traditional, historical architecture.
This challenges the traditional sense of heritage, as many government officials and some community members believe this is an enemy of heritage preservation (Nolovelocks.com). Thousands of locks have been removed, both due to structural reasons but also due to love locks challenging heritage (Carjaval, Doreen 2014).There have opposing voices, which leads to opposing opinions in this case. Many find the act an eye saw and consider it vandalism whilst others find it a power symbol of love. Regardless of the different opinions, thousands still travel to the pedestrian bridge to leave behind a symbol of their expression. Heritage should have a bearing with contemporary society and be adaptable as time is ever changing. Like time, heritage should be ever changing and not frozen in time. Lisa Anselmo raises an interesting point stating “The trick is to find a way for love locks and heritage to co-exist.” (Lowbridge, Caroline 2014). This idea is one which most definitely is affecting the French authority as the challenges continue with both this initiative of expression and that of traditional heritage.
By Erfaan Arif
Ang, Ien, 2001, The Annual History Lecture: Intertwining Histories: Heritage and Diversity, History council of NSW, pp. 1-12
Carjaval, Doreen 2014, ‘Paris falls out of love with padlocks on its bridges’, The New York Times, viewed April 27 2015,<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/world/europe/paris-falls-out-of-love-with-the-padlocks-on-its-bridges.html?_r=0>
Huff, Lisa n.a, FAQ’s Page, No Love Locks, viewed April 27 2015,<http://nolovelocks.com/faq/>
Lowbridge, Caroline 2014, ‘Are Love Locks on bridges romatic or a menace?’, BBC, viewed April 27 2015,<http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-27221707>
n.a, 2014, ‘Move over London… Paris named as the world’s top tourist destination’, Daily Mail, viewed April 27 2015,<http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2578198/Paris-named-tourist-destination-world.html>
Rubin, Allysa 2014, ‘On Bridges in Paris, Clanking with Love’, The New York Times, viewed April 27 2015,<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/28/world/europe/on-bridges-in-paris-clanking-with-love.html>