Volume 8, Number 2, May 1986, pp.21-22

Letter to the Editor

by Jeffrey Blydenburgh

Dear Editor:

There is a growing need in the field of building preservation for individuals who are knowledgeable in the identification and conservation of historic materials. For the proper restoration of an historic structure it is essential to know how a building is built and with what materials before a conservation plan is developed. This conservation plan can then be a guide for a preservation architect to use in the restoration of the structure.

In my work as restoration architect for the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles and previously in private practice, I have found that there is a definite need for individuals who can perform the services described above. For a building to be properly restored, it is essential to understand all the various causes of material failure, before prescribing the solution. All too often the symptom is treated and the cause is left unexplored.

Restoration of buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places are required to follow the Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines for Rehabilitation. For example, these guidelines require that original paint colors be determined; this requires an understanding of how to remove layers of paint and methods of analysis. Buildings must be cleaned in "the gentlest means possible". This requires a professional who is knowledgeable of the qualities of building materials to prescribe the correct solution. It also requires an individual who can work in the field with a contractor to be sure recommended process is properly carried out. The restoration of the interior and exterior of historic buildings is a complex process; for every material and finish there can be a separate problem and solution.

There are several answers that come to mind to meet this need. One possible solution would be for conservators who are presently involved in the conservation of paintings or furniture or other artworks, to join with restoration architects to provide joint consultation services. This would require learning new techniques, but on the job experience can sometimes be the best training. Another possibility would be for schools that teach art, architecture, or historic preservation to offer this particular kind of conservation instruction.

If your readers are interested in this area, perhaps they could make their interests and capabilities known to me through your newsletter. Thank you for this opportunity to address an urgent need in the preservation community.

Jeffrey Blydenburgh, AIA

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