Design versus Conservation and the Value of Time. What is the meaning of place? Session 2.

Session Chairs: Fintan Duffy and Colm Murray.

Design vs. Conservation – Keyhole Surgery or Heart Transplant?

Robin Mandal.

Nearly 40 years ago the “Sense of Ireland” exhibition showcased a potted history of Irish Architecture. It is difficult to overestimate the impact that this exhibition had, not just in London, but more so back home, where it forced the contemporary architects to look at the context of their own work in a long continuum. Since the rejection of the ‘Beaux Arts’ tradition of teaching, architects were re-imagining themselves as social engineers and visionaries who went beyond simple ‘building’ to look at how we understood the meaning of ‘place’, and architects were to understand their place in the context of historical continuity.

Ireland was a late adapter to the 1985 Granada Convention. It was only ratified in 1997. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage went about the task of listing the buildings of Ireland. The Planning and Development Act 1997 gave statutory protection to the architectural heritage.

As the regime bedded down, it became apparent that there was a lack of resources, consistency and spread amongst the various planning authorities. Many owners of protected structures consider the designation as a serious negative; they cannot understand how the authorities can have such a major influence on their abilities to adapt, upgrade, re-use and expand their buildings. There has been very little capture of the hearts and minds of the owners of our protected building stock. Without doubt there is a backlash against what is perceived as over-regulation.

In this debate, works of great architects are cited as evidence that the unregulated genius of the architect produces the best result for conservation; Carlo  Scarpa being probably the most quoted. The professional as agent of their client and the artist supported by their patron are two very different people indeed, with very different perspectives and influences. As a society, we identify with the meaning of place much more than we might, at first, recognise. Not only do we consider buildings and places as part of our identity, but our literature is so deeply rooted in place as to be nearly incomprehensible to others.

In a world where surgeons are adapting pilots’ checklists to improve their results; where data is the new natural resource; and where the boundaries of work continue to blur, we can improve the results of our work through seeing how others work. For far too long we have misunderstood our influence; the 20th Century conservation ethic, with its charters, conventions and declarations has not been in place long enough to understand its influence.

Project as  Landscape Renovation and Interpretation of the Past.

Giuseppe Tupputi, Politecnico di Bari, DICAR (Bari, Italy).

In architecture field, the relationship between “new” and “ancient”, between design intervention and restoration is a complex theme since it obligates us to find some contact-points between history and contemporaneity; to find, in between times and within the bodies of architectures, some invariant elements able to contain the meaning of the places, the sense of the things. The problem assumed by restoration project is the research of the original sense (even if it is recognizable only in a fragmentary way); the research of the significant parts (and the relationships between themselves); definitively the research of the basic idea of the architectural work. The aim of the design process is try to translate the original sense of architecture, which is recognized within the fragmentary depth of history, in a renewed sense, able to live within the unstable vitality of contemporary time.
The proposed paper  would focus about these themes through the description of two projects for San Nicola Island, elaborated at the faculty of Architecture of Politecnico di Bari. San Nicola Island in Tremiti appears as “built nature”. Its architecture perfectly blends with nature itself. We recognize two parts on the island and we tried to make two projects. The first project concerns the village developing on the plateau .The construction of the village is not consisted with the topography, which opens towards the horizon of the sea and the Gargano coast. Through the project we tried to build spaces able to let perceive the landscape in different ways and to give a particular character to every site.
The second project concerns the impressive abbey complex, which appears as a kind of “island on the island”. Indeed it deals with the restoration and the completion of an ancient architecture. The principle aim of this project is to restore the Renaissance cluster. So the project wants to construct a big loggia-wall, which relates itself with the inner space of the cluster and with the external one of the open landscape. The loggia becomes a “rich” place, living on this double connection between the inner condition of the Renaissance court and the expanded and open condition of the sea horizon.


Climate Change and Heritage.

Peter Cox, President ISCES+CC

The Irish Government’s Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government commissioned the ISCES+CC to evaluate the risk of Climate Change to Heritage in 2010. The committee set up an expert working group to carry out this commission and the team spent 2 years studying the climatic changes on the Island of Ireland as well as closely assessing 2 of our World Heritage Sites and a third site that is on Ireland’s World Heritage Tentative List. Early research showed that current weather stations operated by Met Eireann were not convenient to our chosen sites. Through negotiation the Government/OPW allowed us to install a mini weather station at strategic points on each site so we could record actual site situations going forward, this is now managed by the OPW and we, as a committee analyse the data and report twice a year on our findings. The sites monitored included Scelig Michael (dating from 536), the Rock Art at Brú Ná Boinne (3,000 years old), Clonmacnoise, a predominantly 12th century ecclesiastical site with some later and more ordinary buildings on the site.

A short time after this commission our committee was asked to carry out a study for Wexford County Council on – Climate Change and Shoreline Built Cultural Assets: “The Preparation of a Vulnerability Atlas”. This document one would hope will inform the local authority on planning issues and mitigation measures that need to be implemented over the coming years.

The presentation goes through the initial process, the gathering of information, consultation with community groups and stake holders, the implementation of accurate measuring instruments, our findings and results of these two-major study’s, it also makes recommendations with some mitigation suggestions but certainly stimulates necessary debate on this crucial issue.