Observations on #Conservation ….

Again the faithful reader will know of my Accreditation in Conservation and process of upgrading (hopefully) to a Grade 1/2 RIAI Conservatio Architect. The even more faithful reader will remember the posts I’ve written on recent ‘self-motivated’ field trips that includd a few site visits to conservation projects. Two of these are linked below:

What Is #Conservation ? The Neues Museum #Berlin

David Chipperfield & Conservation #2 #Venice

Below are a few observations:

  • Although both of these projects are ‘David Chipperfield Architects’; the team that surrounds the architectural practice is immense:

    Taking the Procuratie Vecchie as an example; obviously this would be significantly larger than any of my conservation projects with 12,400 m2 of wall surface area and 152 length of external facade that needed to be restored, with 300 separate rooms.

    The project needed 36 specialist restorers, 100 workers on site – every day and over 20 architects and specialised engineers.

    Although bigger than my projects – the principle of conservation is the same for both large & small projects – surround yourself with the right people in both the design AND construction team.

    Below are a few photographs taken on the site visit that illustrate the respectful restoration that was undertaken:

  • You don’t necessarily have to recreate exactly…

    Where something is lost, there is the option of recreating it exactly – Notre Damne de Paris is an example of this. The restoration of the fire ravaged cathedral has even gone as far as using medieval tools to faithfully recreate exactly how it was built (https://www.popsci.com/technology/notre-dame-reconstruction-medieval-tools/ accessed 26/06/24).

    The alternative however is to restore what remains but NOT to faithfully create what is missing. David Chipperfield explains the practice’ conservation methodology below:

    “The practice’s approach to restoring the museum was innovative in that it did not propose either an exact reconstruction or a contrasting contemporary extension. Instead, it followed the principle of conservation, restoring what remained and carefully inserting new material into the existing fabric only where necessary to give coherence to the whole.” (https://davidchipperfield.com/projects/neues-museum accessed 26/06/24)

    You can see this in the central staircase (original below):

    And the ‘following similar form but in ‘contemporary’ materials below (photograph by author):

  • Similar to the observation above; conservation can involve modern services, interventions, upgrading. The trick is to recognise what gives the building it’s cultural interest and significance and how that special interest is protected – through the buildings form, materials and construction methods.

    A good example of this is the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (again by David Chipperfield Architects); the architects explain the conservation approach to this building below; the risk being that as The Guardian points out:

    “In their exacting Germanic determination to be as faithful to the original as possible, his Berlin team were in danger of being more Miesian than Mies himself.”
    ((https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/aug/30/curse-mies-van-der-rohe-puddle-strewn-gallery-david-chipperfield-berlin-national accessed 26/06/24)

    “After almost fifty years of intensive use, the listed building required a comprehensive refurbishment. The existing fabric has been refurbished and upgraded to current technical standards with a minimum of visual compromise to the building’s original appearance. The functional and technical upgrades include air-conditioning, artificial lighting, security, and visitors’ facilities, such as cloakroom, café and museum shop, as well as improving disabled access and art handling. [ ] The necessity of an extensive repair of the reinforced concrete shell and the complete renewal of the technical building services required an in-depth intervention. In order to expose the shell construction, around 35,000 original building components, such as the stone cladding and all the interior fittings, were dismantled. After their restoration and modification where necessary, they were reinstalled in their precise original positions.”

    The website continues:

    “The key to the complex planning process for this project was finding a suitable balance between monument conservation and the building’s use as a modern museum. The unavoidable interventions to the original fabric within this process had to be reconciled with preserving as much of the original substance as possible. Though the essential additions remain subordinate to the existing design of the building, they are nevertheless discreetly legible as contemporary elements. The refurbishment project does not represent a new interpretation, but rather a respectful repair of this landmark building of the International Style.”

    (https://davidchipperfield.com/projects/neue-nationalgalerie-refurbishment accessed 26/06/24)

    Below is the author’s photograph from the site visit a few years ago:

    A concluding sentence is a quote by Gustav Mahler: “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”

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