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Historic reconstruction

  • 1.  Historic reconstruction

    Ambassador
    Posted 23 days ago
    One of my first studios in architecture school concerned additions to existing structures. While I hadn't given the subject much thought, I assumed that an addition should match the original structure in material, proportion and style. My professor, who was a disciple of Mies van der Rohe, quickly disabused me of that idea. He was adamant that even additions to historic buildings should reflect current materials and technology and be clearly delineated from what was existing.  To be sure, we approached the project from an architectural design viewpoint, not historical preservation, but in the context of a student studio assignment, I learned to appreciate the look and idea of steel and glass next to brick and wood.

    Which brings me to the reconstruction of Notre Dame cathedral. Not an addition, to be sure, but given the scope of the reconstruction, similar in scale.  I have read several interesting articles with illustrations, of design proposals by architects from around the world. They range from replicating the destroyed sections as closely as possible, to steel and glass, and even fabric structures similar only in scale to the original.

    I have to say, the architect in me appreciates the steel and glass designs, even though they are jarring when compared to the original.  What stand do historic preservationists take on the issue?

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    Jim Sparks
    Sparks Architecture
    Glasgow KY
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  • 2.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Posted 22 days ago
    If you are speaking of Notre Dame in particular, I admit this one is such a huge and complex undertaking I've nothing coherent to say about it yet. But I am curious and look forward to reading others' comments and reasoning. (And I am neither an architect nor an architectural historian -- just an onlooker and occasional participant in design / preservation of buildings close to me.)
    Regarding additions to existing historical buildings, it is a matter of scale. Small, insignificant changes seem best done in the original materials, detailing, and attitude. For more significant-in-size additions, I've always liked the idea of something of today or tomorrow, but of the same general attitude -- a glass-and-steel addition to a simple 19th century, shiplap-sided building ought to be scaled similiarily and remain simple but distinctive.
    Scale and proportion are the driving factors that, to me, can make or break the delicate balance necessary for this to work; but if these are just right -- with everything considered, from site and building mass to the smallest detail -- something wonderful can happen, and at the same time, continue the story of the building for all to see.
    Thanks for letting me opine on a favorite subject!

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    Ginny MacKenzie-Magan
    Tomales CA
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  • 3.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Ambassador
    Posted 21 days ago
    Hi Ginny. Yes, I guess I did mash up several issues existing at different scales there, didn't I? The reason for my post was to start a discussion about the reconstruction of Notre Dame cathedral, and the issue of when, or if, reconstruction becomes counter-productive, and the more appropriate approach is to let damage be visible as part of the ongoing story of the building.

    My inclination is not to attempt to restore Notre Dame to its pre-fire state, but to stabilize and protect the remaining structure with a design that uses modern materials and technology and doesn't try to recreate the past.

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    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
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  • 4.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Posted 21 days ago

    Thanks for the personal reply Jim. I hope more people reply to the thread, and am so much looking forward to the debates and decisions re, Notre Dame.

    Ginny

    On 6/27/2019 7:45 AM, Jim Sparks via Preservation Leadership Forum wrote:
    Hi Ginny. Yes, I guess I did mash up several issues existing at different scales there, didn't I? The reason for my post was to start a discussion...

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    Re: Historic reconstruction
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    Jim Sparks
    Jun 27, 2019 10:39 AM
    Jim Sparks
    Hi Ginny. Yes, I guess I did mash up several issues existing at different scales there, didn't I? The reason for my post was to start a discussion about the reconstruction of Notre Dame cathedral, and the issue of when, or if, reconstruction becomes counter-productive, and the more appropriate approach is to let damage be visible??as part of the ongoing story of the building.??

    My inclination is not to attempt to restore Notre Dame to its pre-fire state, but to stabilize and protect the remaining structure with a design that uses modern materials and technology and doesn't try to recreate the past.

    ------------------------------
    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
    ------------------------------
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    Original Message------

    Hi Ginny. Yes, I guess I did mash up several issues existing at different scales there, didn't I? The reason for my post was to start a discussion about the reconstruction of Notre Dame cathedral, and the issue of when, or if, reconstruction becomes counter-productive, and the more appropriate approach is to let damage be visible as part of the ongoing story of the building.

    My inclination is not to attempt to restore Notre Dame to its pre-fire state, but to stabilize and protect the remaining structure with a design that uses modern materials and technology and doesn't try to recreate the past.

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    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
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  • 5.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Ambassador
    Posted 9 days ago
    Hi, Jim! I, too, am leaning on my training in architecture, but am firmly in the camp that additions to historic buildings need to be designed to read as architecture from today. I love the interplay of contemporary design with historic properties, when it's done with respect for the old and a look to the future. Unfortunately, many architects practicing today did not have the opportunity to learn about that interplay until they were faced with a preservation project in the real world. Several of my former classmates have come up to me in recent years noting that they wished they had taken the one or two preservation courses our university offered so they would have had a baseline of understanding. In regards to Notre Dame, I also have been impressed by the designs I've seen, but recognize that the general public will more readily embrace reconstruction/restoration in response to a tragedy. It's simply a different animal than a new addition planned with care. So, while I wish we could put a 21st century design in play, I'll be content to see it open again for everyone to enjoy.

    Barbara

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    Barbara Howard
    Stonebridge Learning, LLC
    Minneapolis MN
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  • 6.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Ambassador
    Posted 8 days ago
    Hi Barbara. A partial reconstruction of a structure as iconic as Notre Dame Cathedral, certainly presents options that are in opposition in philosophy and execution, with the first one, in very broad and simplified terms, being to replicate the destroyed section using construction techniques and materials that are as close to the original as possible.  The second would be to replicate the destroyed portion using modern building techniques and material, with a third option of replacing, but not replicating, what was destroyed with a new design using modern materials and techniques.

    While most people would assume that the first option is the only one to be seriously considered, there is a case to be made for option three, which allows the building to participate honestly in its own history and the city in which it resides. I am maybe the only person in the world who thinks option two should be seriously considered, with the caveat that all new construction not be blended in with e old, instead, be clearly delineated. Sort of like when archaeologists put together ancient skeletons and clearly indicate which bones are original and which are reconstructions.

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    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
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  • 7.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Posted 8 days ago

    I think option two sounds pretty intriguing, Jim. Maybe you need to go to Paris and make your case!??

    On 7/10/2019 9:12 AM, Jim Sparks via Preservation Leadership Forum wrote:
    Hi Barbara. A partial reconstruction of a structure as iconic as Notre Dame Cathedral, certainly presents options that are in opposition in... -replied to the "Forum Connect" community

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    Re: Historic reconstruction
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    Jim Sparks
    Jul 10, 2019 11:25 AM
    Jim Sparks
    Hi Barbara. A partial reconstruction of a structure as iconic as Notre Dame Cathedral, certainly presents options that are in opposition in philosophy and execution, with the first one, in very broad and simplified terms, being to replicate the destroyed section using construction techniques and materials that are as close to the original as possible.?? The second would be to replicate the destroyed portion using modern building techniques and material, with a third option of replacing, but not replicating, what was destroyed with a new design using modern materials and techniques.

    While most people would assume that the first option is the only one to be seriously considered, there is a case to be made for option three, which allows the building to participate honestly in its own history and the city in which it resides. I am maybe the only person in the world who thinks option two should be seriously considered, with the caveat that all new construction not be blended in with e old, instead, be clearly delineated. Sort of like when archaeologists put together ancient skeletons and clearly indicate which bones are original and which are reconstructions.

    ------------------------------
    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
    ------------------------------
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    Original Message------

    Hi Barbara. A partial reconstruction of a structure as iconic as Notre Dame Cathedral, certainly presents options that are in opposition in philosophy and execution, with the first one, in very broad and simplified terms, being to replicate the destroyed section using construction techniques and materials that are as close to the original as possible.  The second would be to replicate the destroyed portion using modern building techniques and material, with a third option of replacing, but not replicating, what was destroyed with a new design using modern materials and techniques.

    While most people would assume that the first option is the only one to be seriously considered, there is a case to be made for option three, which allows the building to participate honestly in its own history and the city in which it resides. I am maybe the only person in the world who thinks option two should be seriously considered, with the caveat that all new construction not be blended in with e old, instead, be clearly delineated. Sort of like when archaeologists put together ancient skeletons and clearly indicate which bones are original and which are reconstructions.

    ------------------------------
    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
    ------------------------------


  • 8.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Ambassador
    Posted 8 days ago
    I'll keep an overnight bag packed and brush up on my high school french, just in case they ask me to come and consult. Dis donc, ou est le bibliotheque?





  • 9.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Ambassador
    Posted 6 days ago
    Jim, I would lean toward option 3, because (you stated it perfectly) it "allows the building to participate honestly in its own history and the city in which it resides." I think that concept is often lost in preservation and would add that option 3 also allows the building to participate -- perhaps even converse -- honestly with the people who experience it, both present and future.

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    Barbara Howard
    Stonebridge Learning, LLC
    Minneapolis MN
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  • 10.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Ambassador
    Posted 4 days ago
    I've read that a supply of oak trees from the same forest that supplied the original roof support structure has been identified and can be made available for the reconstruction. If this were to be the approach chosen, it seems reasonable to assume that the metal roof cladding will also be replicated as closely as possible, and, then it would follow that the spire would be copied.

     I know that my opinion about whether this is the correct approach carries no weight whatsoever, but I can't help but think of the future and how our government is retreating from the effort to preserve our natural and historic resources just when global warming and the resulting extreme weather events will force us to face the issue of reconstruction of historic structures with greater frequency. And, in general I can't see reconstruction as replication being sustainable.  But general isn't specific, and if the citizens of France want to see something standing that approximates their beloved treasure as closely as possible, who can criticize them.



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    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
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  • 11.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Posted 3 days ago
    Of course, as most everything else worth doing, this is complex! And with decisions about design and materials and function and history having so many intersections and philosophies involved, there are -- probably often --  no completely right ones. Which is why this forum is such a good thing. Over-thinking is way, way better than under-thinking!

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    Ginny MacKenzie-Magan
    Tomales CA
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  • 12.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Posted 3 days ago
    Hi Jim,

    You ask one of the most heated and complicated issues in historic preservation practice - if and how to differentiate the new from the old. In sum, there's no agreement on this issue, but it has been forced in preservation practice through doctrine and especially statutory requirements. Here's a brief summary of the perspectives that might be helpful to answer your question:

    Perspective 1: Additions to old buildings need to somehow look different, but "compatible": rationalistic doctrinal perspective

    This will be a rehash for most of the people on this list, but the basic idea is a few white, upper-class European intellectuals created a rationalistic theory (i.e., a theory not based on empirical evidence) that additions to old buildings shouldn't strive to perfectly duplicate what already exists. Camilo Boito (late 19th C. Italian architect) sums it up pretty well when he wrote that it taxed his mind to try and figure our what was original in a building and what was a later addition. He advocated for easily distinguishing new and old elements so that his mind would be calmed. In the 20th century, these individuals informed international preservation/conservation charters, which were built on Modernism's theories (especially striving for a singular "truth"), including the idea that design should be "of its time". This concept, by the way, falls apart in a contemporary context now that historicized design, today, is the design of its time.

    In the 21st century, at least within academic circles, rationalistic preservation doctrine is increasingly being associated with colonialism, Western hegemony, and the nearly complete lack of recognition of ideas/concepts/meanings from marginalized racial and ethnic groups.

    Here are some key texts that inform and debate this theoretical perspective:

    Establishment of rationalistic preservation doctrine
    Ruskin, J. (1849). The seven lamps of architecture.
    SPAB manifesto (1877)
    Boito, C. (1884). I restauratori, conferenza tenuta all'esposizione di torino, il 7 giugno 1884. Florence.
    Athens Charter (1931)
    Venice Charter (1964)
    Philippot, P. (1976). Historic preservation: Philosophy, criteria, guidelines. In S. Timmons (Ed.), Preservation and conservation principles and practices. Washington, DC: Preservation Press.

    Critique of rationalistic preservation doctrine
    Semes, S. W. (2009). The future of the past: A conservation ethic for architecture, urbanism, and historic preservation. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company.
    Wells, J. C. (2007). The plurality of truth in culture, context, and heritage: A (mostly) post-structuralist analysis of urban conservation charters. City and Time, 3(2:1), 1-13.
    Smith, L. (2006). Uses of Heritage. London: Routledge
    Wells, J. C. (2015). In stakeholders we trust: Changing the ontological and epistemological orientation of built heritage assessment through participatory action research. In B. Szmygin (Ed.), How to assess built heritage? Assumptions, methodologies, examples of heritage assessment systems (pp. 249-265). Florence and Lublin: Romualdo Del Bianco Foundatione and Lublin University of Technology.
    Hardy, M (ed.). (2008). The Venice Charter revisited: Modernism, conservation and tradition in the 21st century. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.
    Milholland, S. (2010). In the eyes of the beholder: Understanding and resolving incompatible ideologies and languages in US environmental and cultural laws in relationship to Navajo sacred lands. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 34(2), 103-124.
    Wells, J. C. (2017). Are we "ensnared in the system of heritage" because we do not want to escape? Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress, 13(1), 26–47.

    Perspective 2: The law made me do it

    A subtitle for this perspective might be, "it doesn't matter what I think or others think, the law requires me to treat historic buildings in a specific way."

    This one is pretty simple, in comparison. Starting in the late 1960s, government bureaucrats encoded rationalistic preservation doctrine into rules and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels. The Secretary of the Interior's Standards became a federal rule in the mid 1970s, ostensibly to be used only for historic preservation tax credit projects, but then states and especially local municipalities directly used the Standards in their statues and ordinances, or crafted rules and regs that were highly derivative of the Standards. The primary author of the Standards, W. Brown Morton, in a recent interview, admitted that he intended the Standards to be highly derivative of the Venice Charter, although this is pretty clear when reading both texts.

    The interesting implication is that if rationalistic preservation doctrine is indeed associated with colonialism, Western hegemony, and a nearly complete lack of recognition of ideas/concepts/meanings from marginalized racial and ethnic groups, then we've required this kind of discrimination in 75% of the work that drives preservation practice. This begs the question that many in the field of critical heritage studies are now asking: as it has been designed, who does historic preservation practice actually benefit the most: architectural historians, preservation architects, and archaeologists or the public?

    For more info, see:
    Wells, J. C., & Lixinski, L. (2016). Heritage values and legal rules: Identification and treatment of the historic environment via an adaptive regulatory framework (part 1). Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, 6(3), 345-364.
    Wells, J. C., & Lixinski, L. (2017). Heritage values and legal rules: Identification and treatment of the historic environment via an adaptive regulatory framework (part 2). Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, 7(3), 345-363.

    Perspective 3: What laypeople think

    For most of the existence of historic preservation practice - excluding the last 20 years or so - not very many people were particularly interested in what everyday people (i.e., the public) thought about historic buildings and places. In other words, some very basic questions were simply not being asked: Why do people like historic places? What makes historic places authentic to people? How should historic places be treated to retain their authenticity as perceived by laypeople? How do historic places relate to people's quality of life?

    For 75% of historic preservation practice-again, which is driven by regulatory requirements-unless the meanings and values of laypeople are congruent with rationalistic preservation doctrine, then rules and regs (e.g., Section 106, local preservation ordinances) require that the meanings and values of laypeople be sidelined. For more details on this unintended outcome of practice, refer to Laurajane Smith's (see citation, above) concept of the "authorized heritage discourse" that describes how this process unfolds.

    Of course the irony in all of this is that all those preservation laws I've mentioned describe in their preamble that this activity is supposed to be in the public good. Yet, these same laws require us to discard some of the fundamental reasons why these historic places are meaningful to people.

    For more details on what laypeople think about what makes an historic building or place authentic and how this should be maintained with additions, see:

    Wells, J. C., & Baldwin, E. D. (2012). Historic preservation, significance, and age value: A comparative phenomenology of historic Charleston and the nearby new-urbanist community of I'On. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32(4), 384-400.
    Wells, J. C. (2017). How are old places different from new places? A psychological investigation of the correlation between patina, spontaneous fantasies, and place attachment . International Journal of Heritage Studies, 23(5), 445-469.
    Levi, D. J. (2005). Does history matter? Perceptions and attitudes toward fake historic architecture and historic preservation. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 22(2), 149-159.
    Gibson, J., Hendricks, M., & Wells, J. C. (2018). From engagement to empowerment: How heritage professionals can incorporate participatory methods in disaster recovery to better serve socially vulnerable groups. International Journal of Heritage Studies.




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    Jeremy Wells, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
    Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, University of Maryland, College Park
    http://www.heritagestudies.org
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  • 13.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Ambassador
    Posted 2 days ago
    Thanks for all the information. It's very informative. Will everything be on the final?

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    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
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  • 14.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Posted 2 days ago
    Heh, heh, you should ask some of my former students who are on this forum!

    But really, if there's one book that I think every preservation architect should read, it's Steven Semes' The Future of the Past. So, yes, that would definitely be on the final!

    One of the reasons I gave a didactic response to your question is that I really wish these kinds of "what's the best design" questions in relation to preservation would start by grounding in 1) doctrine, 2) law, 3) or what everyday people want (sometimes they're the same, but often they're not). Otherwise, what is it we're trying to accomplish in debating "appropriate" design? Appropriate for whom? There is no such thing as universal principles in design, independent of context or perspective. So context is important. 






  • 15.  RE: Historic reconstruction

    Ambassador
    Posted 23 hours ago
    There is a fantastic presentation on the fire at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/07/16/world/europe/notre-dame.html

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    Jim Sparks
    Glasgow KY
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