Buildings of Historical, Architectural & Cultural Importance !

2009-10-08:  Deeply interested … and ‘luuuving’ … a hands-on and direct involvement in the Sustainable Restoration of Buildings which are of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance … or even those buildings which are not so important … I am deeply frustrated and angry when I look around at what has happened … and continues to happen … in Ireland … horrible, damaging interventions and alterations of all kinds … too many of which cannot be undone.

Certain guru-like organizations and individuals must be robustly challenged !

Yes … in everyday practice, there are pressures concerning an improvement of energy performance (BER Certificates !) … an improvement of accessibility performance for people with activity limitations (2001 WHO ICF) … an improvement of fire safety performance, etc., etc. … and, in the next few short years, adaptation to climate change will require serious attention.

BUT – BUT – BUT … in dealing with these buildings (a priceless heritage for our children, and their children, which cannot be replaced !) … some absolutely core principles must influence the minds of decision-makers in client and construction organizations, national authorities having jurisdiction, regulators … and, most importantly, the minds and souls of architects and engineers.  (I am wondering … do engineers have souls ?)

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ICOMOSInternational Council on Monuments & Sites / Conseil International des Monuments et des Sites – works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places and is the only global, non-governmental organization of its kind.  It is dedicated to promoting the application of theory, methodology, and scientific techniques to the conservation of the architectural and archaeological heritage.  Its work is based on the principles enshrined in the 1964 International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (Venice Charter).

From practical experience, I have found the 16 Principles of the 1964 Venice Charter to be enormously helpful …

ARTICLE 1    The concept of an historic monument embraces not only the single architectural work but also the urban or rural setting in which is found the evidence of a particular civilization, a significant development or an historic event.  This applies not only to great works of art but also to more modest works of the past which have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time.

ARTICLE 2    The conservation and restoration of monuments must have recourse to all the sciences and techniques which can contribute to the study and safeguarding of the architectural heritage.

ARTICLE 3    The intention in conserving and restoring monuments is to safeguard them no less as works of art than as historical evidence.

ARTICLE 4    It is essential to the conservation of monuments that they be maintained on a permanent basis.

ARTICLE 5    The conservation of monuments is always facilitated by making use of them for some socially useful purpose.  Such use is therefore desirable but it must not change the lay-out or decoration of the building.  It is within these limits only that modifications demanded by a change of function should be envisaged and may be permitted.

ARTICLE 6    The conservation of a monument implies preserving a setting which is not out of scale.  Wherever the traditional setting exists, it must be kept.  No new construction, demolition or modification which would alter the relations of mass and colour must be allowed.

ARTICLE 7    A monument is inseparable from the history to which it bears witness and from the setting in which it occurs.  The moving of all or part of a monument cannot be allowed except where the safeguarding of that monument demands it or where it is justified by national or international interest of paramount importance.

ARTICLE 8    Items of sculpture, painting or decoration which form an integral part of a monument may only be removed from it if this is the sole means of ensuring their preservation.

ARTICLE 9    The process of restoration is a highly specialized operation.  Its aim is to preserve and reveal the aesthetic and historic value of the monument and is based on respect for original material and authentic documents.  It must stop at the point where conjecture begins, and in this case moreover any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp.  The restoration in any case must be preceded and followed by an archaeological and historical study of the monument.

ARTICLE 10    Where traditional techniques prove inadequate, the consolidation of a monument can be achieved by the use of any modem technique for conservation and construction, the efficacy of which has been shown by scientific data and proved by experience.

ARTICLE 11    The valid contributions of all periods to the building of a monument must be respected, since unity of style is not the aim of a restoration.  When a building includes the superimposed work of different periods, the revealing of the underlying state can only be justified in exceptional circumstances and when what is removed is of little interest and the material which is brought to light is of great historical, archaeological or aesthetic value, and its state of preservation good enough to justify the action.  Evaluation of the importance of the elements involved and the decision as to what may be destroyed cannot rest solely on the individual in charge of the work.

ARTICLE 12    Replacements of missing parts must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence.

ARTICLE 13    Additions cannot be allowed except in so far as they do not detract from the interesting parts of the building, its traditional setting, the balance of its composition and its relation with its surroundings.

ARTICLE 14    The sites of monuments must be the object of special care in order to safeguard their integrity and ensure that they are cleared and presented in a seemly manner.  The work of conservation and restoration carried out in such places should be inspired by the principles set forth in the foregoing articles.

ARTICLE 15    Excavations should be carried out in accordance with scientific standards and the recommendation defining international principles to be applied in the case of archaeological excavation adopted by UNESCO in 1956.

Ruins must be maintained and measures necessary for the permanent conservation and protection of architectural features and of objects discovered must be taken.  Furthermore, every means must be taken to facilitate the understanding of the monument and to reveal it without ever distorting its meaning.

All reconstruction work should however be ruled out ‘a priori’.  Only anastylosis, that is to say, the reassembling of existing but dismembered parts can be permitted.  The material used for integration should always be recognizable and its use should be the least that will ensure the conservation of a monument and the reinstatement of its form.

ARTICLE 16    In all works of preservation, restoration or excavation, there should always be precise documentation in the form of analytical and critical reports, illustrated with drawings and photographs.  Every stage of the work of clearing, consolidation, rearrangement and integration, as well as technical and formal features identified during the course of the work, should be included.  This record should be placed in the archives of a public institution and made available to research workers.  It is recommended that the report should be published.

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Note on BER Certificates for Historical Buildings in Ireland

Unless and until that magnificent marketing and public relations firm … Energy Ireland (SEAI) … can openly show that the DEAP Software has been properly modified to handle buildings of historical, architectural or cultural importance … and this modification is fully transparent … Building Energy Rating (BER) Certification for these building types must be put on hold.

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