Historic structures and components
Every building consists of structures and components like load-bearing walls, ceilings, vaults, roof structures and others made from a variety of materials. Historically these were stone, brick, wood or clay in modern days joined by concrete, metal and glass – often in various combinations.
Historic components have an immense informative value for anyone who can read them. Changes in structures often mean a destruction of at least a part of this information. These changes especially in the likes of the roof structure often have an unexpectedly large impact on the look of a building and its overall visual presentation. Heritage preservation specialists are therefore on hand to help owners find solutions that will result in as minimal (ideally none) changes to fundamental structures as possible.
People in the past took pride in historic structures and components and for example window and door arches, vaults or load-bearing walls were done with great attention to detail even when they ended up not being visible. Historically they used to be covered with clay or plaster but more recent architecture often shows construction elements without much surface covering – like stone or brick masonry.
Analysis will help the process
Repairs to structures and components should be done with authentic materials, technologies and in the same quality, even though they end up not being visible. They are an important document for the evolution of the building and each material has different physical properties and if different kinds are used in the same structure can result in cracks or colour inconsistencies.
If the owners of a protected building want to make changes to historic structures they have to consult a heritage preservation specialist. A building archaeology survey can tell the age of different parts of a building and recommend which can be changed and which are too historically valuable to replace. The survey can also discover original openings that have since been bricked up and can now be used again and other useful facts.
In some eras (especially in older architecture styles) it was fashionable to hide all structural elements and stone components (mouldings, portals, plinths, corners or lintels) – usually under a layer of plaster. Today’s owners often want to show them off and keep them uncovered. It is not only historically incorrect but can also be structurally damaging to the building.
Plaster and other surface layers’ function is not only aesthetic, it also protects the structures from the elements and from mechanical damage. They are also a source of information about the building’s history and historical styles and tastes. Their removal – when, for example, the plaster is completely replaced – means losing this information.
This is why plaster layers, varnishes and all sorts of tiling and other coverings have as much historic values as the structures themselves and deserve protection. What to preserve and how is best discerned by expert analysis. A heritage preservation specialist from the NPÚ will help you how to proceed.