IHBC Yearboox 2018

44 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 8 dug the clay from the ground and formed the adobe bricks to dry in the sun, how they would leave stones to frost and split to make the slates, about the best stone to burn for lime and where you can find the hazel, planted by a great-great grandfather, that can be used for making wattles. Cycles of building and repair followed the pattern of the year, with each season dictating a different task. This knowledge may be half-remembered, but the evidence remains embedded in the buildings and the landscape. These buildings are proving inspirational to the young architects working on the project because they demonstrate low-carbon systems and principles of construction. Understanding and learning from these local buildings might provide insights into how local, national and global environmental challenges can be met. This knowledge may well be the project’s greatest resource with the potential for far-reaching benefits. TRAINING THROUGH CONSERVATION The project centres around the preservation of a historic farm complex, purchased with the support of the Headley Trust, which provides the vehicle for training. Every aspect of work is carried out by trainees, students and volunteers through trial and error and based on meticulous research. It successfully combines training and preservation and facilitates broad international engagement. Students, trainees and volunteers from Bulgaria, Britain, Estonia, and Taiwan and across the globe work side by side surveying, recording and repairing the fabric, learning from each other and from the buildings. The aspiration is a fully repaired farm which will act as a cultural hub to promote the region’s architecture, art, customs, dance, cuisine and music. Inadvertently, the journey towards this goal has already established an internationally diverse community of sharing and creativity. The intense activity both on site and remotely is having a proliferating effect, allowing the farm to act as both a prototype and a facility for the continued use and preservation of other buildings in the area. The process of repair and conservation, learning and training has far-reaching benefits, not only securing the fabric of this building but providing the skills to maintain and repair other buildings in the area and internationally. At the same time it is instilling an appreciation of and enthusiasm for vernacular architecture and traditional skills, helping to resolve the deeper issue of the lack of motivation to invest in the preservation of buildings in the region. The approach of training through conservation allows ownership, sharing and collaboration. It is now being replicated elsewhere in the UK and abroad as participants take home the spark of a ‘Karpachevo utopia’. Following standard conservation practice, the teams started by surveying and recording the built environment. This allowed the buildings’ cultural and architectural significance to be placed within a regional, national and international context. Understanding provided the first step towards making informed decisions about repair, management and preservation. This systematic process gave credibility to the architecture as having historical, architectural and cultural worth. The process was also used as a means of training with architects and surveyors guiding others. As repairs to the farmhouse progress, philosophical approaches to conservation are explored for both the buildings and their contents. One result of depopulation is the sheer number of abandoned buildings, seemingly vacated the day the iron curtain fell, with contents left, tables set for breakfast, unmade beds, and personal items such as letters and photographs scattered and undisturbed for years. These time capsule rooms are a rich learning resource, providing opportunities to research historic and cultural significance, and to learn about recording and conservation. Connections and collaborations began to form very early on between architects, artists and conservators, resulting in creative and alternative approaches to preservation and interpretation. There is something sublime about seeing a Taiwanese conservator sharing carpentry skills with a Bulgarian architect, an Estonian carpenter sharing folklore with a British artist, or a Turkish master demonstrating drystone walling through a language of gestures. The repair phase of the farmhouse and barns – including the walls, outbuildings and restoration of the land for agriculture – is undertaken during a series of annual workshops. These workshops have become an established part of the growing Bulgarian conservation movement and have caught the imagination of people A traditional dwelling in the village of Karpachevo with typical construction of stone plinth, timber frame with adobe bricks and low-pitched roof bearing unsecured stone slates