Old and Innovative Materials Towards a “Compatible Conservation”

Old and Innovative Materials Towards a “Compatible Conservation”

Serena Baiani (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy), Elena Lucchi (Eurac Research, Italy) and Michela Pascucci (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6936-7.ch008


Conservation actions are essential to allowing the usability of heritage for present and future generations. Particularly, for a wider sustainability and for not compromising the authenticity of the subject (in material, structural and figurative terms), intervention must be designed without introducing elements that are not compatible. It is therefore essential to understand material compatibility for implementing proper intervention. Thus, it compares the strategies for testing, monitoring and simulating innovative technological systems, to warrant a good conservation of historic buildings when old materials are close to new materials. In order to illustrate alternative methods of thinking conservation project, the chapter examines the use of new technologies available, such as infrared survey, monitoring systems and simulation software, and their potential in the decision process of the project. In fact, the study of permeability, density, thermal conductivity, capillary absorption and drying shrinkage are essential when two different surfaces are in contact.
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Modern cities are result of human settlement, which led to coexistence of buildings from different ages through a series of transformation, conservation and renewal processes. Each historical period follows well-defined and differentiated characteristics, according to territory, local resources, economic opportunities and workers skills. Every historical period has developed building activity with defined and differentiated characteristics, according to place and workers, representing a unique and unrepeatable experience for architecture history. Whole of this production and established relationship with context, modifying and “building” it, constitute our cultural heritage, that is the whole of all those movable and immovable properties that have left a mark in humanity history and who become bearers of unrepeatable meanings and values. “Driving force behind all definitions of Cultural Heritage is: it is a human creation intended to inform” (Feather, 2006).

Different cultural aspects come in contact, contaminating and influencing reciprocally, realising what now has been considered our “cultural heritage”. Hence, need of improving knowledge of historic building, in order to preserve and to update properly its cultural features and appearances, it is necessary for guaranteeing right protection and fruition.

Every building is unique and has to be known and analysed to be correctly preserved and updated. Knowledge is at the basis of each intervention on historical heritage, as a starting point for understanding its morphological and technological features. Any intervention aimed at conserving, recovering, redeveloping or even restoring of building, result from careful critical analysis, with an integrated and cross-cutting approach to cultural heritage (ICOMOS UK, 2015). This intervention means not only for keeping an intact image over time, but also for creating something that is able to reply to contemporary needs and problems. This knowledge has to consider all boundary conditions. Technological design culture has deepened, over time, effective tools and methods, supporting the project through systematization of data derived from observation, direct experience and refined laboratory tests, which presented objective facts, numbers, parameters, indicators. Now, to understand and to know how use data coming from different sources is particularly complex for designer, but “[…] the question of knowledge of existing, which overcoming concept of diagnostics understood as science that today is fuelled by applications of new detection technologies and accurate laboratory analysis” (Lauria, 2016) takes a leading role in research development.

Reasons for keeping, maintaining and reusing existing buildings are manifold. Benefits of reuse range from intangible benefits of heritage to society and cultural identity to measurable economic and environmental advantages. Potential and value of existing building stock has to be recognised as part of sustainable development. Existing building stock includes a broad range of structures from “highly historic significant” where conservation is the essence, to “document-value” that contribute to site character. Adaptive reuse is an essential strategy in current preservation theory and practice.

Paper will briefly outline how this problem is considered, in order to highlight weaknesses and threats that have already produced unnecessary losses and replacements of characteristic elements of historical heritage.

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