2014 Yearbook

R E V I E W 31 REVERSIBILITY The possibility that research may discover alternative design features or better repair techniques means that, wherever possible, there should be the potential to remove or reverse repairs at some future point without damaging historic material. In practice this may be hard to achieve, especially with structural repairs that require built-in reinforcement or rebuilding, but also in the case of some finishes and decorations which may need to be more durable than their predecessor to cope with more exposed conditions or less frequent maintenance. AUTHENTICITY Most people agree that repairs should not aim to deceive but equally they do not always need to ‘bear a contemporary stamp’,5 which will inevitably strike a discordant note in years to come. Rather, they should be recessive and harmonious,6 so that the emphasis remains firmly on the significance of the heritage asset instead of the repairs themselves, however exciting and innovative they may be. Repairs only need to be identifiable ‘on close inspection’,7 the more so if they are recorded and discreetly dated. Repairs may be easy to spot when newly carried out but artificially aging or distressing materials to reproduce ‘the patina of age’ and help them blend in with existing materials is usually unwise. It can eventually lead to disfiguring variations in appearance. Instead, repairs should be left to weather-in naturally. Generally, previous repairs and alterations should be preserved as a record of the history of the building but schemes of repair can often provide the opportunity to remove damaging past repairs such as cement renders or disfiguring later accretions ‘of little interest’.8 ADVICE The most important factor in carrying out repairs is to get the right advice. There are currently three schemes of conservation accreditation for architects operating in the UK and one for surveyors, which aim to provide those who care for historic buildings with more confidence that they are appointing the right professional adviser to lead their project. Professionally prepared quinquennial (five-yearly) condition reports can provide a firm basis for prioritising, planning and budgeting for repairs. Conservation professionals will also be able to recommend which other specialists may be needed and help to ensure that appropriately qualified and experienced craftspeople carry out the repairs. Perhaps the most important conservation principle in practice is that the art of repairing historic buildings is seldom the responsibility of a single inspired individual but instead requires cooperation, communication and contributions from several ‘artists’. Recommended Reading C Brereton, The Repair of Historic Buildings: Advice on Principles and Methods, English Heritage, London, 1991 Draft British Standard 7913:2013: Guide to the Conservation of Heritage Assets , BSI, London, 2013 English Heritage, Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance for the Sustainable Management of the Historic Environment, English Heritage, London, 2008 J Knight (ed), The Repair of Historic Buildings in Scotland: Advice on Principles and Methods, Historic Scotland, Edinburgh, 1995 Robin Kent DiplArch(Oxf) MA RIBA RIAS AABC IHBC is a conservation accredited chartered architect with wide experience of practical conservation work both in government and private practice (see page 95). This article represents the personal views of the author; it is not official guidance or a statement of the law, and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility is accepted for errors or omissions. Each historic building is unique and will require individual consideration. Notes 1 SPAB Manifesto (1877) 2 See, for example, the assertion of French archaeologist Adolphe-Napoléon Didron that: ‘it is better to consolidate than repair, it is better to repair than restore’ (Bulletin Archéologique, I, p47, 1839) 3 Compare BS 7913 (2013 draft), s.2.22, with The Burra Charter, s.1.5 4 The Madrid Congress (1904), article 1 5 The Venice Charter (1964), article 9 6 The Venice Charter (1964), article 12 7 The Burra Charter (1981), article 19, referring to reconstruction, viewed as a type of repair 8 The Venice Charter (1964), article 11 Masonry is designed to be repaired piecemeal: here, failed stones are cut out at Bowden Pant (1861, Category C(S)) by a mason from McIntyre Masonry. The completed repairs, above right, will blend in harmoniously over time.