Unevitably, there is one advantage that newly built areas cannot offer and that only mature structures have: patina. The visible traces left by residents and history. Patina is materialised time and provides a visible memory of the city. The surfaces that become weathered, discoloured and worn or have even been damaged. If we consider the façades to be a city’s “skin”, patina can be compared to laugh lines, scars or moles. They are evidence of age, maturity, and character as well as fragility. Whether patina is soot on the façades, oxidised copper roofs or graffiti: It gives the city a human face and a human atmosphere.
The lack of patina is also what differentiates truly historic architecture from mere reconstructions, contemporary buildings that mimic old ones. The controversial Berliner Palace is one example. The lack of authenticity and of harmony between appearance and reality then have an effect on the perception of atmosphere. However, it is up to the trained eye of the observer or his or her own willingness to do so to determine whether an authentic experience of historic dimension is possible.
Some urban tourists may hardly be bothered when they visit newly developed port areas and encounter cranes that have been freshly restored and are well-placed, albeit completely devoid of function. These usually serve no purpose other than to attempt to portray the maritime atmosphere of the port’s previous use.