Case studies in preservation and the conservation process in action
Historic buildings are a part of the story of America: how builders and craftsmen arrived from foreign shores bringing the skills from their home country, blended those with popular styles of the era, and manipulated unfamiliar local materials to produce enduring works of art. Since every building is specific to a time and place and the skill of the craftsmen that created it, each building before the 20th century is unique. Knowing the design weaknesses of each era of construction and the peculiar modes of deterioration common to various materials allows us to see with a sort of xray vision behind the signs of failure visible at the surface to the underlying causes of weakness that need attention.
In a way, historic buildings are artwork left out in the rain. Even the best materials and the finest workmanship and detailing will deteriorate in the weathering environment. The 1972 Williamsburg/Philadelphia conference set forth the idea that buildings themselves are artifacts, functioning as a series of interrelated systems, and that original elements can and should be saved. Buildings, no less than the furniture inside, are handmade objects of considerable intricacy with regional differences in materials and construction techniques.
The span of the projects in this section clearly displays how our understanding of buildings has evolved over time and how using a conservation approach achieves results that cannot be had when we treat historic buildings using the same process for building new structures. By expanding and honing our knowledge of materials and techniques with each building, every project stands on the shoulders of those before.