Journal of Architectural Conservation

Volume 7 Number 2 July 2001

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The East Walk in the medieval cloister Court at Lacock Abbey. (National Trust Photographic Library: Andrew Butler)

See: 'Conservation Strategies for Damp Buildings and Plaster: Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire' by  Katy Lithgow and John Stewart


Conservation Strategies for Damp Buildings and Plaster: Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire 
Katy Lithgow and John Stewart

Twentieth-Century Buildings  Alan Baxter

Conservation and Social Value: Rose Seidler House  Alexandra Teague

Methodology of Conservation Engineering  Donald Friedman

Reusing Old Buildings: Protected Monuments in Belgium  Patrick van Cayseele and
Wim van Meerbeeck


Suffering from ‘fatal oldness’?
avid Watt


It was the view of John Ruskin (1819–1900) that the country was succumbing to a ‘fatal newness’. A present commentator on Britain and the British people considers, however, that we now suffer the ‘fatal oldness’ of living with one eye (or both) on the past, and that this is hampering our development and growth as a nation.

It has already been remarked in a previous editorial that conservation is sometimes criticized for its preoccupation with the past, yet an increasing amount of our time is spent recording, documenting and assessing historic buildings and monuments for the preparation of conservation plans, grant applications, and interpretative presentations for the paying public. How far should we allow the past to inform our future and do we have the right to be selective in what we choose to present and portray for future generations?

In Conservation and Social Value: Rose Seidler House, Alexandra Teague presents a stimulating assessment of the importance that social context can bring to house museums. Whilst expressing the view that ‘...the past is in danger of being misunderstood’, she concludes that ‘Representation and subsequent understanding of [these] fundamental social aspects can only lead to a more comprehensive and enriched appreciation of the past’.

The economic justification for conserving historic buildings – an important but often overlooked aspect of architectural conservation – is explored by Dr Patrick van Cayseele and Wim van Meerbeeck of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Reusing Old Buildings: Protected Monuments in Belgium. This paper considers the cost of conservation and concluded that the growth in the number of protected buildings and monuments will lead inevitably to an unsustainable situation in which conservation cannot be guaranteed.

Alan Baxter has again challenged us – in this case to consider our recent built heritage in a manner that may be unfamiliar to some. Twentieth-Century Buildings offers justification for considering the buildings of the past 100 years and, in particular, those built since 1950 as valid statements of our modern history. With this comes the need to adapt and revise conservation policy and practice to meet the demands of this often-forgotten part of our cultural heritage.

Turning to technical aspects of conservation, Katy Lithgow and John Stewart of The National Trust provide, in Conservation Strategies for Damp Buildings and Plaster: Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, a clear and readable account of the methods of investigation and conservation techniques employed at this complex and historically-important site.

The subject of conservation engineering is one that has not received sufficient attention in past issues of the Journal. Donald Friedman has addressed this imbalance in Methodology of Conservation Engineering with a thought-provoking and encouraging assessment of the role that engineers might have in architectural conservation projects.


Conservation Strategies for Damp Buildings and Plaster
Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire
Katy Lithgow and John Stewart


The transformation of the thirteenth-century nunnery of Lacock into a country residence at the time of the Dissolution has resulted in a complex structure, now with serious damp problems affecting the historic fabric. As owner of the Abbey, The National Trust has initiated an integrated conservation strategy to address the causes of decay. Surveys were undertaken to confirm the principal source of moisture and its distribution, and the types of soluble salts and microbiology present. A fuller understanding of the building has been afforded by monitoring the environment, groundwater variations and thermal transmission, and undertaking in situ quantification of microbiological growth through ultraviolet and infrared photography, and induced fluorescence, before and after irradiation with ultraviolet light. Urgent remedial conservation of fragile medieval wall plaster and limewashes has been carried out using lime-based techniques, with a cellulose ether (Tylose) as an adhesive and a silica colloid (Syton) as a plaster consolidant for limited areas. Future work will entail comprehensive assessment of site drainage and necessary improvements.

Katy Lithgow BA(Hons)(Cantab), MA(Cantab), DipCons, CAPT, AMUKIC
After studying history of art at Cambridge University, Katy Lithgow trained in the conservation of wall paintings at the Courtauld Institute of Art where she worked for two years before joining The National Trust as an Area Housekeeper in 1991. Since 1995 she has worked as Adviser for Wall Painting Conservation and assists the Housekeeper in preventive conservation.

John Stewart BA, MSc, AMUKIC
John Stewart is an architectural conservator and historian, who has worked on projects in North America, Europe and the Near East. He was formerly senior conservator at the British Museum prior to joining The National Trust, where he is now Adviser on the Conservation of Archaeological Sites and Monuments.


Twentieth-Century Buildings
Alan Baxter


At the beginning of a new century, reviews of the previous 100 years are timely. The newspapers are full of woeful tales of wars and turmoil, but also of social and economic progress. What is not fully addressed is the enormous improvement in the nature of our building stock. Our ability to build in the twentieth century deserves to be applauded.


Alan Baxter BSc, FIStructE, MICE, MCONSE
Alan Baxter is an engineer with a wide interest in the making of the built environment and its long-term care. His work in conservation covers many significant historic buildings, such as St Paulís Cathedral, the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London. Urban issues influence a significant part of his work, especially the creation of public spaces from the movement patterns of people and traffic.


Conservation and Social Value

Rose Seidler House
Alexandra Teague


Functions, activities and practices associated with a place are important characteristics of its cultural significance. These intangible aspects directly acknowledge human influence and interaction, and the fundamental purpose of a place as a site for human occupation. This paper is concerned specifically with the position of the ‘social’ in cultural heritage assessment, and how it is subsequently conserved and conveyed for interpretation. In the conservation of modern places where aesthetic, historic and scientific values may be contested, social significance is particularly important. Using Rose Seidler House as a case study, the paper identifies complexities in cultural heritage presentation, highlights some of the values of a place that might be represented through alternative and complementary methods, and argues for the need to include the social context when representing design and aesthetic significance.


Alexandra Teague BBSc/BArch(Hons)(VUW,NZ), MHeritCons (Syd)

Alexandra Teague has worked as a conservation architect in New Zealand and England. She is currently at the University of Melbourne completing a PhD that investigates the conservation of social value with specific reference to recent architecture. Her paper is based on a presentation given at the 17th annual conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, held in Wellington in November 2000.


Methodology of Conservation Engineering
Donald Friedman


While engineers have long been involved with building conservation, the growth of conservation engineering as a distinct specialty is a recent development. Conservation engineering is distinguished by the application of rational analysis and design techniques to buildings containing structural elements that cannot be analysed using current methods or which were not designed using currently available materials. Such elements, defined as archaic, obsolete and undesigned, are the marks of a ‘structurally historic’ building and require specialized methods. Common methods of structural analysis and design have evolved for use in new building construction, and are not well-suited to use in conservation work. Specifically, assumptions about load paths and design criteria that are controlled by the engineer in new construction must be discovered on a project-by-project basis in conservation work, turning traditional engineering methodology effectively backwards. This affects the scope of the engineering field and has implications for the organization of the engineering profession, both topics that must be addressed as the number and complexity of buildings old enough to be considered historic increases over time.


Donald Friedman BSCE, PE

Donald Friedman, a structural engineer, is Director of Preservation at LZA Technology, a division of the Thornton-Tomasetti Group with headquarters in New York. His work centres on renovation, restoration and historic preservation, most often of modern buildings. A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he is the author of Historical Building Construction and The Investigation of Buildings, and co-author of The Design of Renovations.


Reusing Old Buildings

Protected Monuments in Belgium

Patrick Van Cayseele and Wim Van Meerbeeck


Protected monuments are an important part of the cultural heritage of a nation. Due to the continuing increase in the number of protected monuments, governments are confronted with increasing difficulties in financing restoration works. In this paper, it is argued that the behaviour of a monument owner influences the expected costs of restoration. Governments should therefore take into account this behaviour in order to implement efficient restoration policies.


Patrick van Cayseele MA, PhD

Dr van Cayseele is professor in economics at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, where he specializes in industrial organization and the economics of financial markets. He is an expert in construction finance and has been involved in large survey studies in the preservation of cultural heritage. He has been visiting professor at numerous universities in Europe and the USA.

Wim van Meerbeeck MSc

Wim Van Meerbeeck is a doctoral student in economics at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, where he specializes in competition policy. He has also been involved in analysing financial opportunities for the preservation of cultural heritage. 

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