Journal of Architectural Conservation

Volume 6 Number 2 July 2000

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Temporary works, Reform Club, London. Scaffold towers clad with painted canvas.

 

See: 'Repairs to the Saloon Roof at the Reform Club, London' by Paul Vonberg and Mark Hammond

Contents:

Repairs to the Saloon Roof at the Reform Club, London  Paul Vonberg and Mark Hammond

Magnesian and Dolomitic Lime Mortars in Building Conservation   Nigel Seeley

Air Pollution and Architecture: Past, Present and Future  Peter Brimblecombe

Stone Cleaning: Comparing Perceptions with Physical and Financial Implications  Jonathan Ball, Richard Laing and Maureen Young

Rebuilding of a Historic Polish Town: ‘Retroversion’ in Action  Jim Johnson

Conserving Historic Gardens  John Sales

 

Abstracts of the papers:

(Note that all biographies are for the date of original publication)

 

Editorial

Belonging to the Future

David Watt

 

Conservation is often criticized for its preoccupation with the past. This concern for what belongs where and when can distract us from important issues of how to make a future from what has been passed down by previous generations. And yet, working to secure a sustainable future requires cognizance of the past. As T.S. Eliot said: ‘Time present and time past, are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past’.

Many of the challenges faced by those working with individual historic buildings or on the regeneration of entire historic areas come from having to understand their history before proposing options for the future. The papers in this issue reflect, in their different ways, this need to understand past principles and practices.

In Repairs to the Saloon Roof at the Reform Club, London, Paul Vonberg and Mark Hammond of Purcell Miller Tritton provide a detailed and fascinating summary of their recent work at the Reform Club, which combines an awareness for the designs of its creator, Sir Charles Barry, and the need to secure effective conservation solutions for the future.

Whilst attention continues to focus on the global environment, valuable work is also being done in relation to the effects of pollution on our buildings. In Air Pollution and Architecture: Past, Present and Future, Professor Peter Brimblecombe considers the changes that are taking place in how air pollution damages our historic buildings and reflects on how social issues often control the costs of maintaining this rich heritage.

Continuing in this theme, Jonathan Ball, Richard Laing and Maureen Young of the Masonry Conservation Research Group, Robert Gordon University, present in Stone Cleaning: Comparing Perceptions with Physical and Financial Implications recent research that points to circumstances in which stone cleaning may result in long-term acceleration of stone decay with associated cost implications.

In Magnesian and Dolomitic Lime Mortars in Conservation, Dr Nigel Seeley of The National Trust provides us with a concise statement as to the history, application and pitfalls of using magnesian and dolomitic limes in the conservation of historic buildings. In this, as with his earlier paper on the use of lead paints for historic buildings (Vol 5 No 2), Dr Seeley offers current advice based on practical knowledge and experience of the subject.

The need to understand the history of a place before proposing options for the future is clearly stated by John Sales in Conserving Historic Gardens. Practical advice on assessing significance and establishing conservation principles is given to guide the reader through the often difficult issues of managing, restoring and renewing historic gardens.

The current rebuilding of parts of the old town of Elblag in Poland, following destruction in 1945, raises many philosophical questions. In Rebuilding of an Historic Polish Town: ‘Retroversion’ in Action, Jim Johnson considers the basis on which this work is being done – particularly in how to value the authenticity of spirit or character rather than simply the building fabric – and whether a similar approach can be used to secure the future of the Gorbals area of Glasgow.

 

Repairs to the Saloon Roof at the Reform Club, London

Paul Vonberg and Mark Hammond

 

It would appear to be a truth universally acknowledged that a great architect in pursuit of a good effect will push the available technology to its limits. Sir Charles Barry was no exception to the rule and in designing the glass roof above the Saloon at the centre of the Reform Club, completed in Pall Mall in 1841, he called for a complex structure of curved cast-iron frames supporting lead crystal lozenges, bedded in linseed-oil putty.

One hundred and sixty years later, the repair of this roof has revealed both strengths and weaknesses in the original design and has highlighted the need for a balanced common sense approach as well as a clear understanding of what it is that is being conserved.

 

Paul Vonberg MA(Cantab), DipArch, RIBA

Paul Vonberg trained and worked as an architectural photographer before commencing his architectural studies at Cambridge University. Qualifying in 1989, he joined Purcell Miller Tritton in 1990 and set up their London office in 1994, becoming a partner in 1996. He is as committed to sensitive contemporary architecture as to the conservative repair on which his practice’s reputation is based.

Mark Hammond BA(Hons), DArch, RIBA, AABC

Prior to qualifying at Kingston University in 1994, Mark Hammond worked for Carden and Godfrey Architects in London where his enthusiasm for the repair of historic buildings was fired. He joined Purcell Miller Tritton in 1995 and has worked as project architect on a wide range of building conservation contracts in London and the south east, including numerous projects at the Reform Club.

 

Magnesian and Dolomitic Lime Mortars in Building Conservation
Nigel J. Seeley

 

Magnesian limes have only had a limited, regional; application in traditional building work in the United Kingdom. Their properties are sufficiently different from those of high-calcium limes that structural problems may arise if they are produced using the same small-scale burning and slaking processes. Their use in building conservation should not be embarked upon lightly.

 

Nigel J. Seeley BSc, PhD, CChem, FRSC, FSA
Dr Seeley read chemistry before working for five years as a forensic scientist. He then became head of the Department of Conservation at University College London Institute of Archaeology, where he taught and carried out research on the history of technology, and the deterioration and conservation of materials used in antiquity. He remained there until 1989, when he was appointed to the National Trust, where he is now Head of Conservation.

 

Air Pollution and Architecture

Past, Present and Future

Peter Brimblecombe

 

Air pollution damages materials, but it has changed dramatically over the lifetime of our built heritage. There has been a decline in the primary corrosive pollutants over recent decades, but we have also seen changes in the sensitivity of materials to air pollutants. Climate has become somewhat warmer and less stormy in Britain since the Little Ice Age, so climate-driven weathering may have decreased. Architects have been obliged to recognize these external factors in their designs, but also the fact that social issues often control the costs of maintaining a rich heritage.

 

Peter Brimblecombe BSc, MSc, PhD

Peter Brimblecombe is Professor in Atmospheric Chemistry at the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, and Senior Executive Editor of Atmospheric Environment. He has undertaken a broad range of research in environmental chemistry, making internationally-recognized contributions to reactions of rain and cloud water and damage to indoor and outdoor materials by air pollutants. The work is published widely in academic books and journals, while he has contributed to the emergence of air pollution strategies within both the United Kingdom and European legislation.

 

Stone Cleaning

Comparing Perceptions with Physical and Financial Implications

Jonathan Ball, Richard Laing and Maureen Young

 

Stone cleaning, with its attendant costs, has implications for the future repair and maintenance of building facades. Justification has in the past been given to stone cleaning based upon the perception that a cleaned property increases in market value and that widespread city centre cleaning enhances its attractiveness as a location for investment. Recent research has determined circumstances in which stone cleaning may tend to long-term acceleration of stone decay with associated cost implications. If the integrity of the built heritage and the aesthetics of townscapes are to be maintained, there is a need to balance the perceived benefits with the consequences in terms of maintenance cycles and the retention of visual unity of design.

 

Jonathan Ball BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD

Jonathan Ball is a member of the Masonry Conservation Research Group with a particular interest in computer-aided graphical mapping techniques for monitoring building stone decay. He was awarded a PhD for his work Bioregions and Future State Visioning: A Visual Approach to Integrative Information Management for Environmental Planning.

Richard Laing BSc (Hons), PhD

Richard Laing originally trained as a quantity surveyor and developed a particular interest in valuation. He developed cost model for stone decay as a member of the Masonry Conservation Research Group.

Maureen E. Young BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, FGS

Geologist and geochemist with a particular interest in biological growths on building sandstones. Research Fellow in the Masonry Conservation Research Group where other projects include research into consolidants and water repellents.

 

Rebuilding of an Historic Polish Town

‘Retroversion’ in Action

Jim Johnson

 

The city of Elblag must be unique in Europe for rebuilding its old town only after a gap of 50 years since its destruction in 1945. Elblag was missed out of the post-war Polish drive to rebuild its destroyed historic centres, principally because it was a German city pre-1939 and only reverted to Poland in the great post-war convulsion of national boundaries in central and eastern Europe. After forming a public park for 20 years, the buildings of the old town are now being reconstructed on their old foundations, approximately to their previous heights, but in a rather frenetic post-modern style. This whole rebuilding process has been dubbed ‘retroversion’ by the Poles.

As an extreme case, the retroversion of Elblag raises many issues about the design of new buildings in historic areas, and challenges the hegemony of western European attitudes to authenticity in conservation. In particular, one might question the emphasis on the authenticity of the building fabric. Perhaps we can learn from the Poles who value the authenticity of spirit or character rather than simply the building fabric.

 

Jim Johnson Dip Arch, RIAS

Jim Johnson is a practitioner and academic involved in conservation and urban renewal. Until 1984, he was Reader in architecture at the University of Strathclyde, where he founded and directed ASSIST, an action/research unit that pioneered the community-based rehabilitation of Glasgow’s nineteenth-century tenements. A frequent visitor to central and eastern Europe since 1966, Jim Johnson has worked on renewal plans for Krakow in Poland, and Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, both of which are on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

 

Conserving Historic Gardens

John Sales

 

This paper defines a garden as a contrived ecological system comprising a range of plants interacting with one another, with other living organisms, and with the site and climate; all within a semi-permanent structure of land form and buildings. Conservation is a continuous process that involves assessing the full significance of what exists and arranging for the more important features, qualities and processes to be retained in the long term. The meaning of significance in the context of historic gardens is discussed, based on survey, research and analysis leading to a full knowledge of the site. Arising from a statement of significance, principles of conservation can be formulated in relation to present circumstances, changed use and the need for adaptation and development. The structure and content of a full conservation plan is described in order to provide long-term guidance on the upkeep, development and renewal of the garden as a whole and for each identifiable part, based on historic precedent, perceived ideal, constraints and opportunities.

 

John Sales VMH, MHort (RHS), FInstHort

John Sales was, for 12 years, lecturer in amenity and landscape horticulture at Writtle College, Essex, until appointed as Gardens Adviser to the National Trust in 1971. He was appointed Chief Gardens Adviser in succession in 1973, and retired after in 1998. He is now part-time gardens consultant, lecturer, author and Royal Horticultural Society judge for gardens at Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows.

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