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Principles

Principles

Conservation Process

Sequence of Conservation Work

  1. Research and analysis of history and fabric  
  2. Survey of Building  
  3. Identification of existing original material  
  4. Plan restoration with minimum intervention 
  5. Implement under experienced supervision 
  6. Record work 
  7. Put in place regular maintenance procedures

Conservaton Principles

Conservation of historic buildings can generally be considered as the action taken to prevent decay and to prolong the life of our national architectural heritage. The conservation process should be carried out without damaging the building and without destroying or falsifying historical evidence. Conservation aims at ensuring the long-term survival of our heritage for the enjoyment of our own and future generations. Since the 1960s Ireland has seen more changes to its landscape and to its architectural heritage, than in any other period of history. The changes are evident in both town and country. Much has been lost, but much remains which now requires ongoing care, maintenance and protection. There has been a significant growth in public interest in and awareness of our built heritage, from thatched cottages, great country houses and shop fronts to bridges, mills and stone walls. Frequently, a new and compatible use has to be found for historic buildings and this becomes one of the challenges of today.

Restoration and Reconstruction

Restoration can be taken as the process of returning a heritage object to a known earlier state, without the introduction of new material. Reconstruction generally means altering a heritage object by the introduction of new, or old, materials into the fabric, to produce a work which respects the original. The two processes are often intertwined and both must be approached with the utmost care. Work is often undertaken on an old building with the best of intentions and enthusiasm, which, through lack of information, or by the employment of inappropriate of incorrect methods, causes a great deal of unintentional damage, both aesthetic and technical. In many cases intervention may have been unnecessary in the first place Inappropriate pastiche is to be avoided, but well-executed replicas may, in certain cases, be acceptable. In new work, in a conservation context, the use of well-designed modern forms and materials, carefully chosen and respectful of their older environment, can be rewarding.

Retention or Restoration of historical significance

The aim of conservation, as stated in the Burra Charter (ICOMOS), should be to retain, recover or reveal as much of the historical significance as is possible of the heritage object, whether building or artefact. Provision for its security, maintenance and future must be part of this aim. The end use of the restored or conserved building is therefore of vital importance, as any new use has to be compatible with the needs of the building.

Conservation Process - Based on Research

It is important to know and understand the history of the building and its current physical condition, prior to the commencement of work. If this is not done, costly errors can be made and the completed project flawed. It is hoped that these guidelines will encourage all those working in the field to adopt the basic guiding principle of minimum physical intervention. This means making the minimum change to an historic building or place, in order to retain wherever possible the original fabric and character. It means, for example, repairing windows or shop fronts instead of replacing them. It means the careful striking of a balance between carrying out necessary repairs and eliminating problems and preserving the authentic sense of history that many buildings and places in Ireland still possess.

Repair rather than replace

A logical outcome of the principle of minimum intervention is the concept of repair rather that replace. All too often original features, such as floor boards of old lime plaster, are consigned to the skip without a second thought. Initially the window frame or joist or cornice may look totally beyond repair to the untutored eye. However, on detailed examination original plaster or joinery can, in many cases, be retained or repaired, and there is no need for wholesale and expensive replacement. The result is a more authentic building which preserves the feeling of age and history and respects the fabric and original craftsmanship. It must be emphasised that at first sight the appearances of decay and damage in a neglected building may be misleading to the inexperienced eye.

Accurate replacement

In the context of restoration, any necessary replacement should adhere exactly to the original, if possible. For instance, if parts of window joinery, or a cornice, are damaged beyond repair and replacement is deemed necessary, then the emphasis should be on accurate replacement. At this stage it is important (1) to decide if the damaged or rotten portion is original, (2) if so, a sample of any existing moulding should be kept and (3) an exact copy should be made by a reputable craftsman. It must be emphasised that very precise instructions, measurements and samples need to be given to craftsmen or builders to ensure that what is meant to be an exact copy does not turn out in the end to be a carelessly detailed imitation. This can happen, not through lack of expertise but through the craftsman or builder not realising the importance of accurate replication. There is scarcely a town in Ireland without a pseudo old-world shop front where the details are clumsy imitation of original patterns. Particular effort should be made to match the type and colour of the original for necessary stone and brick replacement work. Where possible, traditional and local materials should be employed in repair work. For example, damaged stone paving should be repaired by sourcing local stone where possible, rather that using stone from elsewhere, or manufactured paving.

Maintence of visual setting

Conservation of historic buildings can generally be considered as the action taken to prevent decay and to prolong the life of our national architectural heritage. The conservation process should be carried out without damaging the building and without destroying or falsifying historical evidence. Conservation aims at ensuring the long-term survival of our heritage for the enjoyment of our own and future generations. Since the 1960s Ireland has seen more changes to its landscape and to its architectural heritage, than in any other period of history. The changes are evident in both town and country. Much has been lost, but much remains which now requires ongoing care, maintenance and protection. There has been a significant growth in public interest in and awareness of our built heritage, from thatched cottages, great country houses and shop fronts to bridges, mills and stone walls. Frequently, a new and compatible use has to be found for historic buildings and this becomes one of the challenges of today.

1. Research and analysis of history and fabric

This is the vital first stage of conservation and restoration work. The history of a building can be discovered by searching out documentary evidence through old papers, maps, registers etc,. and through written accounts and photographs of the period. The fabric of the building itself will also give clues to the past. Information gained from all these sources can be used in planning the conservation and restoration.

2. Survey of Building

It is necessary to record the existing building by means of an overall and accurate measured survey, be it a cottage, castle or modest shop, prior to commencement of work. The survey should include plans, sections and elevations. Properly carried out surveys are often invaluable in identifying the building’s history. A photographic record should also be made and a survey of the building may be necessary to establish if there are structural defects or other problems.

3. Identification of existing original material

Identification of original material is of great importance. Many original features are lost or damaged inadvertently through lack of knowledge. Decisions may have to be made as to whether or not it is appropriate to remove later additions. Many later alterations or additions may be valuable in their own right and can be left as part of the ‘story’ of the building.

4. Plan restoration with minimum intervention

Restoration should be carefully planned and guided by the principles of conservation to ensure that the least intervention possible takes place. As always, repair rather that replace is the guiding rule. If missing features have to be re-instated, accurate detail must be ensured by careful research and precise instructions. Professional help should be sought in putting together the overall plan.

5. Implement under experienced supervision

Many owners of buildings do not possess the knowledge or experience needed for most restoration projects. Calling in a sympathetic professional, with experience of conservation and restoration work, at the early stages will minimise the risk of costly error or unintentional damage being done.

6. Record work

It is important that a record, both written and photographic, should be kept during the course of the work, for future reference and information.

7. Put in place regular maintenance procedures

An ongoing programme of inspection and maintenance must be put in place to ensure the building remains in good condition. This makes good economic sense as it is infinitely better to maintain and repair regularly, rather that face major and costly work when problems reach crisis point. Safety and security procedures should also be installed and implemented.