Journal of Architectural Conservation

Volume 8 Number 3 November 2002

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The Tower of Pisa at the handing-over ceremony on 16 June 2001.


See ‘The Stabilization of the Leaning Tower of Pisa' by John B. Burland


The Stabilization of the Leaning Tower of Pisa  John B. Burland

Monument to Madness: the Rehabilitation of the Victorian Lunatic Asylum  Bridget Franklin

The World Heritage Convention and the Exemplary Management of Complex Heritage Sites  Dennis Rodwell

Professional training and Specialization in Conservation: An ICOMOS Viewpoint  Aylin Orbasli and Philip Whitbourn

Assessing the Conservation Needs of the Taj Mahal  Om Prakash Agrawal


Conservation: an out-of-date paradigm?
David Watt


Does conservation remain a sound principle as well as a valid response to changing circumstances? What are we running from and where do we want to end up? Are we really running out of steam? One hears all these questions when conservation is debated and discussed by the media and by some of our leading protagonists.

The frameworks and standards that have been established over the past 50 years have served to guide and, at times, cajole individuals and organisations into doing the ‘right thing’. How do these actions compare to our present expectations and have we really learnt from past mistakes? In a world where, as David Lowenthal put it, the past has undergone the usual consequences of popularity and is being swallowed up by the ever-expanding present, there is evidently still much more to be done in satisfying the demands of the conservation ‘client’ and of ensuring that we take account of the needs and wishes of future generations. With the papers in this issue of the Journal comes a close look at how we perceive and respond to some of the most valued and provocative buildings in our care. The lessons learnt from such exercises can and should be used to inform future conservation policy and practice.

The Taj Mahal in India is one such building that needs no introduction. Dr O.P. Agrawal, in Assessing the Conservation Needs of the Taj Mahal, draws on his personal experience as Director of the Scientific Committee to discuss the worrying problems faced by those responsible for the Taj and outline recommendations for future action.

In The Stabilization of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Professor John Burland continues the story of his involvement with this remarkable and enigmatic structure. The work to stabilize the Tower has proved to be an immensely difficult challenge to civil engineers and architectural conservationists, yet has allowed the public to again enter and contemplate both the original construction and its rescue for collapse.

Moving closer to home, Dennis Rodwell in his paper The World Heritage Convention and the Exemplary Management of Complex Heritage Sites discussed the five United Kingdom industrial World Heritage Sites and offers guidance on the preparation and implementation of management plans for other complex heritage sites.

Turning to a particular building type, Bridget Franklin examines the origins and changing fortunes of the nineteenth-century lunatic asylum. Her paper, Monument to Madness: The Rehabilitation of the Victorian Lunatic Asylum, provides a clear and concise study of asylum design and, by way of case studies, discusses some of the key issues associated with successful adaptation and reuse.

In an upside-down world where essential manual and craft skills are increasingly referred to as ‘living heritage’, it is clear that education and training have an essential role in bringing the various facets of architectural conservation together. Professional Training and Specialization in Conservation: An ICOMOS Viewpoint by Dr Aylin Orbasli and Dr Philip Whitbourn provides a carefully-considered caution of how conservation remains fragmented – despite the clear message given in international guidance documents that we need to embrace and invest in interdisciplinary practice – and how this is affecting both the training and accreditation of the next generation of conservation professionals.


The Stabilization of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
John B. Burland


The stabilization of the Tower of Pisa has proved to be an immensely difficult challenge to civil engineers and architectural conservationists. The Tower is founded on weak, highly compressible soils and its inclination has been increasing inexorably over the years to the point at which it was in a state of leaning instability. Any disturbance to the ground on the leaning side would have been very dangerous, ruling out conventional geotechnical processes such as underpinning and grouting. Moreover, the masonry was highly stressed and at risk of collapse. The internationally accepted conventions for the conservation of valuable historic monuments, of which the Tower is one of the best known and most treasured, require that their essential character should be preserved, with their history, craftsmanship, and enigmas. Thus any invasive or visible intervention in the Tower had to be kept to an absolute minimum. Stabilization of the Tower was achieved by means of an innovative method of soil extraction, which induced a small reduction in inclination not visible to the casual onlooker. This technique has provided an ‘ultra soft’ method of increasing the stability of the Tower, which at the same time is completely consistent with the requirements of architectural conservation. Its implementation has required advanced computer modelling, large-scale development trials, an exceptional level of continuous monitoring, and daily communication and control. The Tower was re-opened to the public on 15 December 2001.


John B. Burland DSc(Eng), FRS, FREng, FICE, FIStructE  
The author studied civil engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and gained his early practical experience with Ove Arup and Partners in London. He obtained his PhD degree from Cambridge University and then joined the Building Research Establishment where he became head of the Geotechnics Division and later Assistant Director in charge of the Materials and Structures Division. In 1980 he was appointed to the Chair of Soil Mechanics at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, where he is now Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Investigator.


Monument to Madness

The Rehabilitation of the Victorian Lunatic Asylum

Bridget Franklin


This paper examines the origins and changing fortunes of the unique building type of the nineteenth-century lunatic asylum. The paper discusses how asylum design became a prestigious area of architectural work in response to perceptions of appropriate treatments and environments for mental illness. However, over time, asylums were discredited, leading to closure programmes and redundancy. After a period of abandonment, a new future for the asylums has appeared, and housebuilders have responded to a changing policy and public agenda by taking on the risky process of preservation and conversion. The paper includes three case study examples to illustrate the continuing story of the asylum, demonstrating how outcomes have depended on the approaches and attitudes of planning authorities and developers.


Bridget J. Franklin MA (Hons), MSc, PGDHA      
Bridget Franklin is a lecturer in housing at Cardiff University. As well as lecturing in housing policy and development, she has research interests in housing as built environment and the housing of the disadvantaged. She is currently working on an ESRC-funded project on urban villages.


The World Heritage Convention and the Exemplary Management of Complex Heritage Sites
Dennis Rodwell


Management plans have now been published for the five United Kingdom industrial World Heritage Sites – Ironbridge Gorge, the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, the Derwent Valley Mills, New Lanark, and Saltaire. Many consider these to be exemplars in their field.

This paper aims to present the context; give examples of the management parameters, objectives, and progress in implementation of the management plans for the five United Kingdom industrial Sites; relate these back to the provisions of the World Heritage Convention; and extract guidance that is relevant to the preparation and implementation of management plans for other complex heritage sites, specifically historic towns and cities. Although the management plans quoted in this paper relate to World Heritage Sites, they are relevant to complex heritage sites irrespective of whether they have achieved World Heritage status.


Dennis Rodwell MA, DipArch(Cantab), DipFrench(Open), RIBA, FRIAS, FSA Scot, FRSA, IHBC       

Dennis Rodwell practices as an architect-planner. He is a consultant to the Division of Cultural Heritage and to the World Heritage Centre, UNESCO, Paris, and conservation officer and urban designer to the city of Derby, England. He has undertaken missions on behalf of the World Heritage Centre to Central and Eastern Europe aimed at achieving best practice in the management of historic cities and the conservation of historic buildings, work that he is developing through UNESCO’s Division of Cultural Heritage.


Professional Training and Specialization in Conservation

An ICOMOS Viewpoint

Aylin Orbasli and Philip Whitbourn


Concern for the built heritage, its conservation and management, has emerged as a recognized field of expertise and knowledge, but remains isolated at professional level because the work is spread across a range of disciplines. ICOMOS Guidelines, Education and Training in the Conservation of Monuments, Ensembles and Sites, adopted in 1993, is widely used in the United Kingdom both as a basis for the content of conservation courses and also as a benchmark for the accreditation of conservation professionals. Conservation and management of the built heritage is being undertaken by architects, archaeologists, surveyors, town planners, engineers, historians, managers, and other disciplines. There is a rapid rise in conservation courses as demand is triggered by an increase in heritage-related work. While international conservation organizations have emerged, professional organizations with regulatory powers at national level have not been established. This paper discusses the difficulties of quality control in specialist education within the multidisciplinary framework of cultural heritage, and investigates the accreditation process from an ICOMOS viewpoint.


Aylin Orbasli BArch, DPhil
Dr Aylin Orbasli trained as an architect in Turkey before completing a doctorate at the University of York in England. Having worked as both a university researcher and then in architectural practice, she now works as a consultant in historic building conservation and as a lecturer at Oxford Brookes University School of Architecture. She chairs the ICOMOS-UK ‘Education and Training Committee’.

Philip Whitbourn OBE, PhD, FSA, FRIBA, FRTPI, IHBC       
Dr Philip Whitbourn is an architect and planner. He worked for 20 years in the Historic Buildings Division of the former Greater London Council, and for some ten years at English Heritage, where he became Chief Architect and Regional Director for the South Region. He was Secretary of ICOMOS-UK from 1995 to 2002.


Assessing the Conservation Needs of the Taj Mahal
Om Prakash Agrawal


The conservation of the Taj Mahal in India has been a matter of great concern to the entire world. This anxiety has related particularly to the establishment of the nearby Mathura Oil Refinery, which it was feared would have a serious effect on the white marble of the Taj. Over time, the marble has acquired a yellowish appearance and cracks have appeared at several places in the marble slabs. In addition, black spots have also been seen on these slabs, together with damage to the edges, destruction of the joints, and pitting of the surface. Alarmed by these observations and by false rumours that the Taj Mahal would soon tumble down, the government of India appointed a Scientific Expert Committee to study the situation and submit its report. The author, as Director of the Scientific Committee, studied these problems in detail and gave his recommendations. This group came to the conclusion that atmospheric pollution plays a very minimal role and that there were several other factors attributing to changes in the appearance of the monument. This paper presents the results of these studies and makes recommendations for future action.


O. P. Agrawal MSc (Chemistry), DLitt (honoris causa), FIIC, FIASC (Hon)      
Dr Om Prakash Agrawal, born in 1931, is the Director General of INTACH’s Architectural Heritage Division and the Indian Council of Conservation Institutes. He is the founder and former Director of the National Research Laboratory for the Conservation of Cultural Property. The international award ‘Personality of Conservation’ was conferred on him by ICOM (Brazil) in 1990 for his contribution to art conservation in developing countries. He received the prestigious ICCROM Award in 1993 for his lifetime service to conservation.

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