CONSERVATION vs PRESERVATION

Post –by Gautam Shah

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As a process, Conservation and Preservation converge, but as area of application they are slightly at a variance. Conservation is used for macro zones such as for environment and resources. Conservation does not negate the continuation of use or participation by humans, provided it is within some ‘sustainable form’. The sustainable form though a restrictive term, ‘it has no (universally) acceptable definition’. Conservation evaluation is based on the results of efforts that manifests in future.

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Bhadra Fort Ahmedabad Gujarat India

Conservation is a term used in the sense of ‘preservation for the future’. Conservation implies that the reasons behind protecting something are based on using and managing that resource wisely. A conserved area or zone would mean perpetuating a ‘conceptual environment’ by preventive strategies such as inculcating an image, a concept or a futuristic projection and also by way of intentional tactics of regulations, discipline or a lifestyle. So conservation can be broadly of two classes: the Preventive conservation and the Interventionist conservation.

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Preservation, on the other hand is scaled to local or works at micro level, such as for finite entities like buildings, works of arts or crafts. It is a process of keeping safe or free from harm or decay. It entails enforcing a complete isolation through creation of an enveloping environment. “It is the act of keeping alive something like a palm leaf manuscript in a library”. Preservation, in contrast to conservation, attempts to maintain the pristine conditions of areas where some fouling is imminent or has already set in. For both of these conditions it is necessary to define what constitutes the ‘pristine’ condition. The pristine condition is a hypothetical section of the past. So preservation is selective or circumstantial. In doubtful or controversial situations where stepping back in history is not possible or permissible the preservation is also enforced as conservation. Whatever the existing situation may be, it is maintained.

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PRESERVATION and CONSERVATION

 

 

The concourse and steps leading down to the platforms at Pennnsylvania Station (New York City). The railing along the stairs are the only remainders from the original station that can still be seen today, though only on some platforms.

Pen Station New York City (demolished 1963)

 

 

Preservation and Conservation processes start with a perceived belief or an accepted truth, that the present condition of a built form is a historical fact, resulting from natural causes and human discriminations.

 

The natural influences and human machinations in a building are usually so interpolated, that it is almost impossible to separate them out. It is almost impossible to preserve or conserve any entity unless some of the changes are terminated, withdrawn, isolated or retracted. These exercises more often mean a move towards the original condition that is unknown or uncertain to begin with. Preservation and conservation as a result, turn out to be attempts in restorations. Buildings are preserved or conserved by the society, due to a fear, that any other action may cause irrevocable harm than any good.

 

In the 19th C. Europe, in the field of architectural rehabilitation of buildings, the creed ‘to conserve, but not rebuild’ prevailed, and by 1900 it had been enforced by legislation also. The national acquisition of buildings for conservation in Britain had been carried out chiefly under the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act of 1913, by which suitable unoccupied properties can be ‘taken into guardianship’. A much more rigorous application of the principle is possible in the United States, whereby the owners of whole groups of buildings held to be of sufficient distinction can in fact be legally dispossessed. These erstwhile owners may then be allowed to remain in residence on condition of the repair and rehabilitation of their buildings to a specified standard. In this way, whole areas of buildings, such as Society Hill in Philadelphia, have been taken over.

 

Urban conservation has often come to mean frontage restoration of old buildings in period styles. Criteria for conservation are not easy to define. ‘Architectural merit clearly must rank highly, especially in the case of any building that authentically exemplifies its period’. Historical associations, such as the birthplace of a famous person, are less easily rated. One pernicious effect of all selection is the way in which it is the most outstanding example of any period, rather than the truly typical, that in the end remains to represent it.

 

DECADENCE in BUILDINGS

Post -by Gautam Shah

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‘A building reflects the society or the community in which it survives. The condition and quality of the buildings reflect, the public pride or indifference, the level of prosperity, social values and behaviour, political confirmation, and all those Influences that give community the unique character. Decayed buildings depress the creative urge and generate anti social behaviour.’

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Buildings age and show signs of decay. Decadence in buildings is both, Real and Sensorial. Real or physical decadence is structurally causative, and can be measured. Sensorial decadence is merely perceptive and often being subjective is difficult to define.

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The decadence in a building can have different meaning to different people, or for the same people in different situations. Decay is judged by both, local people and outsiders or visitors. Those who stay in or near the building are continually involved with it and so do not realize the changes setting in the building, or even in its surroundings. They may not perceive decay of minor scale or slowly occurring small changes.

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Bathroom-Toilet structures at Lothal, India > Wikipedia image by Bernard Gagnon

Outsiders visiting a building often accept a decay as a nominal ageing process, and may not be bothered with it. However, frequent visitors immediately observe the accumulated changes. When local people realize the decay in a building, it may have reached the terminal or non-recoverable stage. Then the confidence in stability of the building is shaken and the end of property seems well within the sight.

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  • A change in a building is perceived only in the context of something that is non-changing or having a very fast or slow pace of change. An entire street may look decayed if some of the buildings within it are less decayed, or when the street is seen in the context of a neighbourhood which may have been rejuvenated, or may have decayed further.

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Decay is a natural process, accelerated by some climatic and use- related conditions. It may be arrested temporarily or perhaps reversed by specific actions, but never eliminated completely. It is nominally presumed that the processes of ageing should be faster in buildings that are intensively used (over-used) and extensively abused (misused).

Inversely it is also wrongly believed that decaying processes are slower or lower in buildings not at all used, sparingly used, or carefully used. Historical monuments with blocked visitations are often neglected, compared to ones regularly visited by tourists, care-takers or public.

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Hiroshima Peace Memorial SW Side  – Arrested decay or conserved state > Wikipedia image by SElefant

Historical buildings that are well connected to the local people by way of religious reverence, known fables and mythological links, locational advantage, distinction of style, are likely to be better cared.

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For commercial properties decadence gets noticed because it directly affects the ‘function-activity system’, as for example in less sale or clientèle, reduced value, or productivity.

Historical buildings need to be part of the human settlements. For these such buildings should be well connected, visible and participatory. Remote buildings though cannot be brought back to the human settlements can have good connectivity. Where the scale or the interest is smaller, Time and Space must be enhanced with some form of ancillary facilities such as information centre, museum or time-pass activities.

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Abandoned workshop France > Wikipedia image by Gregory Kerouac

Conservation (or preservation) and Restorations are acceptable for buildings with heritage value. But some form of regulated conversion may be necessary for structures of ‘fringe’ or borderline historical value. The regulated conversion is adaptation that prepares a building for a new use but following certain regulations. The regulation are intended to maintain its architectural value while sustaining its structural integrity.

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