Post 544  by Gautam Shah


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


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



Post by Gautam Shah



Greece stairs white houses.
Lime or Whitewash
is one of the oldest and cheapest methods of coating exterior and interior surfaces. It is created from Slacked Lime. Slack Lime has good opacity and so covering property. It is a non-convertible coating (does not change to any permanent product and so removable) best suited for conservation.

Santorini Cyclades GreeceLime stones (CaCO3), are heated to temperature (above 825 °C) to form Quick Lime (CaO) which is then quenched by adding water to form Calcium Hydroxide (slaked lime-CaOH2). Lime bearing materials are lime-stones, marbles, chalk, sea shells.



A lime-wash of slaked lime or CaOH2, on evaporation of water has very little binding property. A lime wash for first fortnight has almost no strength, however, over few days of atmospheric exposure it begins to absorb CO2 from air and converts itself to CaCO3 – a reaction called carbonation.


A white wash retains 85 % of its original reflectivity for consecutive 120 to 180 non rainfall days. However, the operative life may stretch more than one monsoon season on exteriors and possibly two or more monsoon seasons in the interiors.



A hydrated Lime often contains impurities like magnesium carbonate, calcium sulphate, chalk. The quenching or mixing water may also contain soluble salts and sediments. Both the types of impurities increase the chances of flaking (poor surface adhesion). To improve the adhesion materials like Casein (a milk protein), gums, glues, cooked starches, molasses, sugar, alum, common salt, oils, tallow, fats have been used. In modern age polymers (emulsions) are added. All these old and new additives supposedly improve the adhesion in the shorter run. These substances invariably hamper re-coating after ageing.

Additives to Lime Wash may provide little more water repellancy but they always reduce the process of carbonation of the material, resulting in chalking on the surface. For extra brightness ultramarine blue colour is added, and for other colour alkali resistant pigments like iron oxides are used. If the pigment additive is not alkali resistant, it will get faded out.


Colors Blue Street The Walls Of The Morocco

A Lime wash is considered air purifying treatment. It removes stench and rancidity of the enclosed spaces. American barns were regularly white washed with lime for the antimicrobial properties that provide hygienic and sanitary atmosphere. Limes washes, were used over tree trunks for their anti bacterial properties. Indian houses’ kitchens were re plastered  with mud plaster that was lighter in colour (natural alkaline soils or addition of lime). The process was called “Chauka” a purification rite after death in the house, menstrual cycle and festivals like Diwali, new year day, etc. Chauka removes oil-grease stains, smoke and shoot and refreshes the air.

1 Limewash_and_slate,

To day Lime-wash is considered ideal restoration-conservation coating as it does not harm the masonry surfaces. It is also a sustainable product.A lime wash can easily be scrapped off the surface. It is recoatable treatment that is available cheaply in all parts of the world.






Humayuns Tomb Delhi

Restoration is an exercise to recreate a situation as close to its ‘original condition’. The original condition is evidenced by various types of records. Restoring means re-establishing or resurrecting a value, concept or a condition that is lost, diminished or diluted, due to natural processes like decay, circumstantial causes, forgetfulness, malicious or beneficial changes. Restoration is done to all types of assets where there is some inherent worth or will gain it post restoration. Buildings, artefacts, paintings, streets and towns are restored. At places terrains and other natural assets are restored.


Buildings are restored with many different concepts. Society values a building for many different reasons:


●         as a functional entity,

●         for its association with a past event,

●         for its value as an entity of architecture or arts,

●         as an outstanding specimen of crafts or a technological accomplishment of an era that has passed away,

●         as an ideally fitting and irremovable part in a whole (a house in a street of nearly similar houses).

Society wishes to preserve such milestones but in a state that will make them last as long as possible. Society also wishes to preserve buildings and artefacts in distinguished conditions that later generations can admire it and be inspired to preserve them further.

Buildings are restored to their original stability, functionality and sensuality. ‘Retrofitting’, reinforcing and ‘stress relief’ measures help depleted buildings to survive greater or different loading stresses and for longer periods. New functions are bestowed to not only old and used but new and unused buildings. Functional restorations are made primarily for economic viability, and secondarily for validating it in the changing circumstances and surroundings. Buildings are restored to reestablish the sensual aspects lost due to decadence, endow new sensual values to match the current trends in the society or neighbourhood, or even remove the sensual characteristics that have become abhorrent in the new social or political setup.

Buildings being restored to endow new trends or styles do not pose many problems, but restorations tracing back the history are very difficult. For old buildings very few records are available to show the sequence of occurrence and extent of various changes. What one gets is an interpolated image through several layers of changes.

A building as it stands, represents a product of not only its originator’s perceptions and accumulated effects of changes like alterations, extensions, additions, restorations etc., but also losses, dilapidation, demolitions, etc. over the years. Many of these changes were planned and benign, but there are many changes that were malicious or unintentional (natural calamities).

It is always accepted that, a true and absolute restoration is never possible. A restoration is an approximation. It is based on the perception of the restorer or the sense prevalent in the society at that point of time. It is not possible to restore buildings to the original condition, a particular situation or any specific time frame perception, but, to what the user (or the designer or, restorer) conceptualizes. Restoration as an exercise is likely to be based on generalizations, ignorance, insincerity, wrong decisions, lack of resources, time constraints, etc.





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.



Post -by Gautam Shah




‘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.’


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.


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.


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.


  • 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.