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Restoration and preservation… April 9, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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What do people make of this? I quite like modernism in architecture, but this castle in Cadiz doesn’t feel appropriate. One comment BTL noted that it might be preservation but it’s not a restoration.

That said, the facade of Newgrange is far from uncontested either by those who are expert in the area. It was based on an interpretation of the quartz stones around the front of the tomb. Some believe – perhaps with good reason – that it was more likely a plaza like frontage that people would walk on. The fact that to instate it required a reinforced steel and concrete wall does raise questions.

Still, I’m less exercised by that than the Cadiz example, perhaps because the intention of those who originally constructed Newgrange seems much less clear.

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1. Liberius - April 9, 2016

What is restoration though? The word itself implies continuity between the past, present and future of a building, but if the materials and structural mechanics of a building change is it the same building at all, or just an ersatz building engaging in pastiche? What ever that Cadiz castle is it isn’t the one constructed a 1,000 years ago, and nor is Newgrange the building constructed in the neolithic period. Of course fact isn’t going to stop people deluding themselves into the belief that they are doing something noble with restoration.

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

Isn’t it possible it could be both positive and useful well away from those who might be deluded about their nobility – though I’ve never quite heard anyone involved in such processes proclaim themselves as noble. It is clearly educative to see sites as close to what they might once have been and I hope only a very few people think that a restoration is the original. Indeed sometimes restorations or part restorations can assist in seeing that change more clearly – Conway Castle in Wales is a good example, the Alcazaba in Malaga another. Part ruins can be useful too – Knossos is impressive in part because it is largely in ruins.

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Liberius - April 9, 2016

The thing is though that you could get educative quality with a complete replication, indeed as it would be completely new it could be built to be more durable than the original and therefore allow greater access to the public; there is a second point there that in many cases restorations and complete replications are subject to supposition as to what the original design looked like, only the ruins can claim any kind of authenticity as they aren’t the potentially inaccurate musings of contemporary people.

I don’t what the problem is just curating ruins, I think they are when added to collected information a good substitute for the particular building in its prime.

Okay, maybe it’s my own prejudice to view the restoration industries types as being egomaniacs obsessed with the moral correctness (thus self-made nobles) in restoring everything of the past as if the past was better than the present and future. To me the past is the past, hence I’m comfortable with ruins rather than ersatz buildings because buildings degrade over time and turn to ruins, that is the way of the things.

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

Sorry, it strikes me we’re discussing this at cross purposes. I’d prefer if the original Spanish castle ruin was left as a ruin, I’m there with you fully. The restoration seems to me to be problematic not so much because it’s modern (as a work of art a la Rachel Whitbread I’d have no problem with that) but because it is ‘restoring’ it as distinct from just leaving as is. I’m not antagonistic to restoration but it depends on where and why.

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Liberius - April 9, 2016

To be fair though there is a point of differentiation as the top of your post declared that it was inappropriate, my view is not that it’s inappropriate so much as it feels like a vain attempt to halt the passage of time, and thus an example of hubris on the part of those wanting to restore it, and therefore pointless. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the objections to the restoration of the castle appear to more be based on the aesthetic choice of the restorer rather than the basic question over whether restoring it was a good idea at all. I suspect it wouldn’t have gotten any attention at all if they’d done it in a way a looks like a medieval castle, even if that wouldn’t have made it any less of a ‘cyborg’ than what it is now.

1798Mike below though commits what to me is a much more grotesque suggestion than all of this with the notion that mock-Georgian buildings should be plonked down in the city to make up for the demolition of some other previous ones. That’s not even restoration, you can’t after all restore something that doesn’t exist any more. That really is a case of looking backward rather than forwards.

Actually here’s an interesting one, will the impending demolition of Hawkins House (and the others) create a clamour of people looking to have mock-international style large-panel system buildings? I think not, there isn’t enough ‘respectability’ attached to it.

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

I’d tend to agree that a ‘restoration’ using ‘original’ brick work would be equally problematic though. Though I think it is case by case. I think in a way the problem of the term restoration in itself is important – like you I disagree it is possible to restore the past, I’m not convinced it is impossible to alter or rework a building. Take Cadiz – I’d quite like to see that in glass. It wouldn’t be a restoration but it would be a development. I’m not too worried about aesthetic issues weighing on matters – although they change across time I don’t think they’re immaterial. Again taking Wood Quay the original block designs were grim in the extreme, more sensitive approaches that integrated aspects of the site into them might have met a much less pointed response and the reworked buildings are vastly better (particularly for those in them with larger Windows, more sunlight, views etc).

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

And just thinking about that sensitivity in respect of the city scapes is no harm. I can’t disagree that pastiche is not good, I think of examples parts of the quays which have faux original buildings are also grim. But instating new buildings requires thought and care.

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2. Aonrud - April 9, 2016

I’m not sure I see the problem with the Cadiz building. Was there a case for preserving it another particular state? (And, as Liberius points out above, what makes it the ‘original’ building?)

Any attempt to try and imitate the existing materials is, I suspect, far more likely to produce horrible results. Cities are littered with ugly, slightly-off building extensions along these lines. Though that’s the broader architectural environment rather than more unique historical artefacts, so I suppose there’s a case for different approaches there.

More broadly, of course there are case-by-case arguments, but I think there’s a common conservative tendency toward a sort of ‘do no touch’, wrap in cling-film approach to historical buildings (and artefacts generally). The reductio ad absurdum of that is that we have so much human history surrounding us that we never touch anything and the landscape can’t develop. It’s more useful to put each case in the context of the local or national historical preservation – if there are similar examples, can we afford to try different approaches? If there are several examples, do we need to preserve them all? etc.

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

That’s a fair point re case by case and I think it’s very persuasive. I’d certainly not be advocating a restoration that sought to imitate the original, the original state I quite liked and I’d wonder what was the argument for changing it from that.

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

Just on your last point that’s particularly important. Nothing lasts forever. It’s fascinating to me to see access to sites restricted because they are themselves fragile or the materials are perishable. But that tendency can go too far – I was in the National Museum a couple of years ago, I”ve mentioned this before I think, and looking at one of the Defence Forces armoured cars there, done up in UN white paint etc. A couple of middle-aged guys from the North were inspecting it and looking in through an open door. One had his hand on the door. An attendant came over and said ‘you shouldn’t really be touching that’ and his tone was grand, he wasn’t being officious. But as one of the northern guys said after jokingly ‘it’s seen worse than that’. He wasn’t wrong. Tactile engagement with the past is I think quite important – the idea armour plating can’t be touched seems a bit ludicrous. At some point, naturally, there may be a case for restricting access to objects and locations, but it has to be done carefully and in such a way that it isn’t restrictive for the sake of it.

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Aonrud - April 9, 2016

I find myself erring on the ‘let children clamber on it’ end of the spectrum, even though I understand the case for fragile preservation.

I suppose it comes down to why we preserve anything. At the extreme end, is the cordoned off, ‘look but don’t touch’, stuff serving any purpose in terms of educating or informing us about our cultural heritage? If it’s for future generations, is it really any better than our oral, written and pictorial records?

More generally, I think it’s an unpleasant tendency in the landscape. The number of sites around the country that used to be interesting to visit but are now locked down is huge (plus the tendency to try and fleece you to get near them). It feeds into the ‘do not walk on the grass’ attitude to public space. What’s the bloody grass doing there then?

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

It’s interesting as to why we preserve things, but I doubt we’d find someone making a compelling case for levelling Kilmainham or Glasnevin cemetery. I do agree there’s far too many places that are locked down for no good apparent reason.

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Aonrud - April 9, 2016

No, of course. I meant in that middle paragraph above that the approach shouldn’t extend too broadly as a sort of default attitude.

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

Yeah, I’d completely agree, and again, as I was saying to Liberius I think we’re discussing this slightly at cross purposes which is my fault.

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Michael Carley - April 9, 2016

There is a technical museum in Germany with old Soviet airliners on twenty metre high sticks that you can clamber around in. If you want you can return to ground level by a big slide out the cockpit door.

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

Weren’t we talking about that museum in north Wales where you can clamber in and out of aircraft, highly unusual but absolutely brilliant.

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Michael Carley - April 10, 2016

This is the one in Germany:

http://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/en/

It’s a bit unsettling to look at a steam locomotive built in Germany in 1938, though.

I can’t remember if we were talking about one in Wales (I don’t know the one you mean).

While we’re on aviation, I had five minutes in an A320 simulator last week.

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Michael Carley - April 10, 2016

I don’t remember talking about one in Wales (and I can’t think which it would be). The German one is here:

http://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/en/

And since we’re on the subject of aviation, I had five minutes in an A320 simulator last week.

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Michael Carley - April 11, 2016

WBS: I’ve tried replying here a couple of times, but I think it might disappeared into the spam hole (there was a link in it).

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WorldbyStorm - April 11, 2016

Sorry about that should be sorted now

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WorldbyStorm - April 11, 2016

And yet its not appeared, thank you cut down version of WordPress for Android.😦

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Michael Carley - April 11, 2016

It has appeared, and so has the second one I posted when I thought the one I did on an Android device (Fairphone) had disappeared.

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WorldbyStorm - April 11, 2016

Weird, I’m accessing the site in a Fairphone as well. Anyhow I will not comment on my feelings re yr time on an A320 simulator🙂

Welsh one is Caernarfon Air world Museum,

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Michael Carley - April 11, 2016

They set me up for a couple of landings. I managed not to crash, but only because I flew a go-round before ploughing into the perimeter fence. There is something very satisfying about pushing the throttles forward and feeling the whole aircraft do what it should.

This isn’t the place to talk (and not with my name attached) but I’ll tell you about the atmosphere of the establishment some time (it’s not only civil transports they simulate).

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3. 1798Mike - April 9, 2016

There is a case for restoration if the original act of destruction came about through war, vandalism or just profound ignorance. Certainly so, if it adds to a cultural consciousness and an awareness of the importance of our landscape and our built heritage.
For example, after the war, much of old Warsaw was rebuilt street by street and stone by stone. There was a case for Dublin City Council forcing the ESB to restore streetscape of Fitzwilliam St. by exactly rebuilding the Georgian Houses they destroyed, through their original vandalism in the 1960’s. Unfortunately, the city council was persuaded otherwise.
There is probably no point trying to restore anything at Wood Quay, since the point of the conflict, in the first place, was to ensure the integrity and preservation of the site at the centre of the Viking city.
The Dublin Civic Trust produced an excellent plan to preserve and improve the streetscape of Thomas St. This appeared to have the support of the City councillors who adopted a plan for this historic street in sympathy with the Civic Trust’s proposals. Unfortunately, one of the actions of the so-called city planners was to approve a breach of the plan adopted for the street. Well, you know, planners and their desire to facilitate business interests, just like in Moore St……. what more needs to be said ?

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WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2016

That’s interesting about restoration on foot of destruction. Is it proximity time wise to the act of destruction that makes that less problematic? i.e. a building destroyed or damaged three years before that is restored to more or less a similar condition to the original seems less precious, for want of a better term.

Wood Quay is a fascinating example – I’ve a heap of stuff on that for the Archive soon enough – there I’d have imagined the conservation would be of the archaeological site and what remained in situ not a restoration of the original (or in this instance faux original) buildings.

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gerryboy - April 10, 2016

With reference to your first paragraph, it may be pertinent to remember that after German cities had been bombed to bits in WW2 architects were commissioned in the 1950-1970 years to redesign some old town halls etc. and supervise their complete rebuilding. Germany is a brilliantly modernising society that also has a respect for old architecture.

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rockroots - April 10, 2016

Well that reminds me of the systematic destruction of World Heritage tombs in Timbuktu, which have just been rebuilt using similar materials. I’d expect there to be some sort of reconstruction in Palmyra, where possible, but to what extent can these still be considered ancient structures?

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gerryboy - April 10, 2016

I think the damaged ruins at Palmyra can be built in defiance of the barbarian intentions of those who have recently been driven from that unfortunate city. In Athens, the ruined Parthenon overlooking the sprawling modern city is being slowly rebuilt by stonemasons, some of them women. New pillar stones have been carefully carved out to match surviving material (there will obviously be variations in colour, which might be camouflaged by technology) and missing walls and roofing frame will be rebuilt. They may not put a new roof on top but just let the stonework there to give a better impression of what the temple of Athena looked like over two thousand years ago. Greek and foreign tourists may derive a more awesome feeling from their visits.

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4. CL - April 9, 2016

Preserved medieval architecture in the Bronx
http://www.lehman.edu/vpadvance/artgallery/arch/buildings/armory.html

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5. gerryboy - April 9, 2016

The OPW has in the past few decades restored some dilapidated historical structures. It has re-pointed some other ruins that were in dangerous condition so that the public can access them without getting injured. In Donegal town the decayed O’Donnell’s castle was comprehensively restored and some interior rooms were refurbished with furniture, tapestries, carpeting, new roofing and assorted adornments appropriate to historical times when Gaelic chiefdoms existed. In the south-west, an old abbey was restored to approximate the atmosphere of pre-Cromwellian times. (Inch Abbey, I think.) Individual tourists and school groups can visit such places for pleasure and learning. Builders, stonemasons and architects were paid incomes for restoration projects. There are hundreds of old ruins in such bad condition that they are not worth restoring, and there are many others which still retain two-thirds of their original walls and teach viewers another kind of lesson in their rugged state of diminished grandeur. The ruins of a big house burnt down during the Tan war at Woodstock near the pretty village of Inistiogue in Co. Kilkenny can tell visitors another historical tale.

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6. benmadigan - April 10, 2016

to look at another extreme situation – north to south Italy is chock-a-block with ancient monuments and palaces.

From pre-Roman times onwards, they march through time, crumbling and falling to pieces with the latest sharp rainstorm.

Pompei is in a disgraceful state. Some shoe manufacturer has generously offered to prop up the Colisseum .

No one will I think dispute these monuments are worth preserving and restoring for the whole of humanity – yet young Italian archaelogists/restorers/engineers are 100% unemployed and bricks and stones continue to rain down on the unwary tourist’s head.

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7. Jim Monaghan - April 11, 2016

This is an area which should be internationalised to coin a word. Poor countries need help to preserve. They are for the most part world rather than national heritage.

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Gerryboy - April 11, 2016

Important point. The great building achievements of the past in many civilizations belong to humanity, not to any particular nation. That’s why UNESCO declares world heritage sites and gives grants for their protection. Maccu Pichu, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall and the Rock of Cashel are among many sites that draw visitors from around the world.

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8. Gewerkschaftler - April 11, 2016

Heritage culture often serves to obliterate history, IMO.

A particularly ugly example is festering in the centre of Berlin where a facsimile of the Baroque palace Berlin’s autocrats is being rebuilt, on what was once a pleasant piece of open space in the historic centre of Berlin.

The conservative parties (including the SPD and the Greens) voted for it. Only die Linke voted against.

However friezes of Karl Liebknecht announcing the November republic and of Marx exhorting world peace continue to stare accusingly at it.

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Gerryboy - April 11, 2016

Marx and Liebknecht staring accusingly at the autocratic Baroque palace seems like a fitting illustration of historical contradiction! Attentive viewers might learn something about dialectics.

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