RESTORATION EXERCISES

Post 544  by Gautam Shah

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Buildings are restored to retain and perpetuate select identities. The selection is a subjective process of a person, society or the political power (including invader or conqueror). The concept of restoration is comparatively easy as the retained identities seem to provide a link between the past and the present, whereas things that are ignored or removed, make the exercise easier, simpler and justifiable. The select identities are like values, utilitarian aspects, sensorial qualities, materials, technology, architectural character, spatial qualities, style, patterns, scale or proportions, antiquity, social-political-religious confirmation.

An early photograph of Stonehenge taken July 1877 Wikipedia image by Author Philip Rupert Acott

Pic from same position in 2008 showing the extent of reconstruction Wikipedia image by Author Mavratti

Buildings as affected by age, environment and human use become increasingly inefficient, irrelevant and unsafe. The environmental processes continue to change the fabric of the buildings. The human use, miss use and non-use, all reflects in the decline of the building. To terminate or arrest the affectations, several processes of change are required. Externally, the purposes with which a building was erected need a live sponsorship and continued participation of the society. The buildings’ location needs corroboration from its surrounding, which can be had through macro planning or re-validation of the functions. Internally a building is a visit-able entity or just relic, for both cases it should be stable and safe.

Partly-restored windows facing Pitched Stone Court, Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire Wikipedia image by Author Andy F

A restoration, cannot revert a building to its original condition. As there is no original condition of a building. What we perceive to day is an entwined mass of effects of age, environment and human use. Changes occur in time, and spatially across the fabric of the building. Buildings are nominally as well as intentionally altered, but these changes are never recorded. The evidence of previous conditions in absence of records is largely conjectural. A true restoration must faithfully use the original materials and technologies which however are unlikely to be available. The building loses its site related relevance and time related functionality over a period of time. One, cannot regress a building to a past state in isolation of its referential conditions.

Marcellus theater Rome

Theater of Marcellus Rome backside reconstruction

Medieval builders treated the works of antiquity as something to be extended. They knew that abandoning a well sited and a large sized building is a wastage of time. A large new building would take several generations, political stability and long period free of catastrophes and disasters. Restoration meant resurrecting a building in the shortest possible time, with an image or style of the time. Yet during resurrective restoration, there were several ‘corrections’, to suit the socio-political-financial conditions. Such a complex entity cannot have a particular or ‘original character’.

Serbian monastery Gracanica Wikipedia image by Author Bujar I Gashi

From ancient times to first part of present century, restorations have always followed the sponsor’s wishes and restorer’s wisdom. Restorations have meant all types of changes, such as renovations, alterations, reformations, additions, and extensions, but rarely the ‘reinstatement of a previous condition’. ‘Restorations’ have been carried out by masters such as the professional artists, sculptors and builders and street level roving crafts-persons. The nature of ‘change’ interventions depended on the skills of the master. Such changes were primarily intended to upgrade the building to a better condition. It also meant ‘improvising or adapting a style or confirming to a contemporary taste’. Restorative changes have been carried out by experts to brand their capacity rather then any respect for the past. Restorers like Michelangelo, saw a building as a raw material and opportunity to organize it. Classical structures during Romanesque and Renaissance periods were as regarded pieces of admirable antiquity. Yet these were restored by retaining, enhancing and adding the perceived values, but ‘without any concern for the process or investigations’.

1 Ishtar-gate-بوابة-عشتار

Ishtar_Gate_at_Berlin_Museum

Reconstruction of Tito’s Palace in Mostar. Part of film depicting several buildings and structures that have been damaged during the Bosnian War, wikipedia image

A restoration destroys something of the original character. It is irretrievably lost. The character of the building gets lost with too many restorations. Restorations without harming the substrate or basic fabric preserve them in their original condition. But, that does not mean a restoration allows one to mount a skin or a make-believe screen, to camouflage the original. Conservation is very restrictive process, but restoration could be conservative and preserving in nature.

restoration .jpg

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TRIVIAL and SUBSTANTIVE CHANGES in BUILDINGS

 

Post 450 -by Gautam Shah

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Trivial or non-substantive changes are caused by the user, without the help of a professional designer. Such changes are mainly limited to the interior domain of the space. These are personal adoptive changes. Highly articulated interior spaces have either a very strict regimen or very neatly defined functionality, and so do not allow major changes. A person acquires such a space at a premium rent or charge, is aware of the restraints, and so may not have the obsession for change. Trivial changes relate more to the sensorial aspects of an interior space, rather then its spatial quality. Such changes are ‘applique’ and do not affect the depth of the structure. The application or removal, both are ‘benign’ or non ‘causative’.

Exterior side Trivial changes for personalization > En Wikipedia image by Wikierpedia

Non-substantive changes on an exterior side of a building are caused for personalization. These changes rarely occur in one comprehensive exercise. Personalization is a social response to the conditions in the neighbourhood. Indians dominated residential areas in UK, USA, and other countries show strong personalization of exteriors, perhaps to imprint their Indian affinity. This is in stark contrast, to an Indian house in a community sparsely populated with Indians. Here the house owner avoids the external personalization.

Raw houses California st NW Washington DC Wikipedia image by AgnosticPreachersKid

Exterior side changes on buildings, trivial or otherwise, are discouraged by the local authorities to sustain the ethnicity of the neighbourhood. Exterior changes of all types, are not allowed on leased-rented properties. Logistically it is difficult to cause any change on the exterior faces of a multi storeyed building. In buildings where galleries or balconies are provisioned, occupants place demountable entities like flower plants, mobiles, hangings, screens, etc.

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tate_modern_viewed_from_thames_pleasure_boat_-_geograph-org-uk_-_307445

Buildings need substantive changes mainly when the user or usage change. Substantive changes are executed by professional designers, in both the domains, unless restrained by extraneous causes such as budget, logistics and local authorities. External changes are difficult in buildings with multiple owners (shared) as there is obligatory discipline. Similarly buildings located in dense localities have severe logistics problems that make it very difficult to cause any changes on the external face. Multistoried buildings with nearly integrated curtain walls as the exterior skin offers no scope for any external modification.

Difficult logistics for substantive exterior change in Multi-ownership apartments Gurgaon Delhi

Substantive changes are caused by brand conscious companies that have very defined para-metrics regarding Graphics, Space and Architecture. To accommodate first two the architecture needs alterations. Substantive changes relate to immediate commercial needs, and also to perception on how long one will stay in the new premises.

Commercial renovation substantive changes on exterior for branding

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REPAIRS to BUILDINGS

Post 191 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 

Building Repairs

Repairs to a building mean, to mend, to restore, to revitalize, restoration after injury or decay, reinstatement of loss. Repairs are corrective actions compared, to maintenance, which are preventive in nature.

Kolkata India

Kolkata India

Buildings with adequate or timely maintenance require lesser repairs in extent and frequency. Efficient maintenance is not possible in un-repaired or poorly repaired buildings. Minor or localized repairs are not noticeable, but major and extensive repairs renovate a building. Similarly frequently or extensively repaired buildings get completely altered.

Repairs, in most cases are based on compulsions and convenience. Repairs are series of ad-hoc and non related compromises between the immediate physical needs of the building and the availability of finance. Repairs are often carried out as a sequel to the maintenance work. Buildings present a decayed look, when repairs and maintenance are infrequent or inadequate.

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Building as a system is an assembly with varying level of integrity. In building many components are replaceable, while others, though replaceable, may disturb the equilibrium of the shell and have catastrophic consequences. Repairs are made to replace parts of sub-components. Buildings designed as ‘open end systems’ are easier to repair, compared to ‘closed ended systems’ or very ‘tightly’ designed entities. For repairs it is necessary to procure parts and components from open market or original system suppliers. In the first instance, the parts have to be very basic and universal to persist for several generations, whereas in the second case the original supplier, invariably a proprietary entity, has no commercial interest to meet a demand as long as a building last.

Question of Repairs or replacement

Question of Repairs or replacement

Repairs require materials and techniques used in the original creations. Repairs which usually occur very much later are done with equivalent materials and techniques. These later materials not only function, but age differently.

In case of historical buildings, the repairs are required more for correction of deterioration caused by forces of nature, rather over-use of the premises. Repairs in historical buildings are done as a strategy of conservation, carefully preserving and continuing the original character.

Self Help repairs

Self Help repairs

Buildings are repaired, if only there is place validity of its purpose and a time relevance of its life. The repairs depend on the location and purpose and quality of the shell or structure. Buildings where quality of space determines the efficiency of work activities, and which in turn scales the economic returns, are well repaired. But as soon as the work-activities become dysfunctional or economic returns taper off, a decision has to be taken whether to demolish the building and replace it with new one, or to maintain it through repairs. Sentimental values associated with buildings also determine the scale of repairs.

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