Historic buildings and future-proofing the skills to restore them: DE and GB experts meet in London

 

LOCATION & DATE:  London, Monday 8th Aug

AUDIENCE:

  Experts in renovation and restoration, owners of historic monuments and buildings, contractors and architects specialising in restoration and renovation.

SUMMARY:

Destroying a building can take place in a minute, but maintaining and restoring historical monuments and buildings requires expertise and often years of dedication. There is a scarcity of experts in restoration, in the UK and in the rest of Europe. A German delegation of restoration specialists came to London to forge links with 

  1. The National Trust: The synergies were: an agreement to share information; to look at the opportunities for apprenticeship exchange to replenish the ageing population of experts; to arrange future meetings with National trust experts.
  2. The architects Patalab, involved in the current facade renovation of the residence of the German Ambassador, a Grade 1 listed building, built with locally sourced and fired bricks, partially mortared with Thames mud.  The site visit revealed how differently restoration work is conducted and managed within the UK and Germany.

THE NATIONAL TRUST MEETING – Great Expectations and young blood

With 235 mansions, 12 lighthouses, 28 castles, 57 villages, 5000 cottages and 700 farmsteads, to name but a few of its responsibilities, the National Trust has a diverse range of buildings and monuments that it has to maintain. All this occurs under the eagle eyes of the funding membership. Rory Cullen explained how, as well as bringing in external experts, the National Trust has its own pool of restorators and renovators, skilled in the arts and crafts required to maintain this historical heritage. The impact of complex and ever-changing building regulations, health and safety aspects as well as the understanding of the materials in each and every project, these require the coordination of whole teams of experts in their respective areas.

However there is a real danger of traditional crafts and skills being lost if they are not passed on to a younger generation. For this reason the National Trust initiated an apprenticeship programme in 2010. Lizzie Long of the National Trust revealed that ten apprentices were taken on in 2010 and a further 12 have been taken on in 2011. They train for 2 years to get an NVQ for newbuild and then take an extra third year for the additional skills of heritage and conservation.

The German delegates come from a different culture, one where the centuries old tradition of apprenticeship, journeyman and master is still the mainstream form of training and introducing new blood into existing arts and crafts.

The skills represented by the German delegates concentrated on the external facades of buildings and monuments and the inner skins of rooms and ceilings. Previous heritage projects include Schloss Neuschwanstein, the Reichstag and many churches and cathedrals. For example, Eberhard Jüngst (lead contact) is a specialist in the correct application of cleaning procedures that can remove accumulated dirt and salt efflorescence without damaging the underlying stone or masonry from valuable monuments or historical buildings. His colleague Franz Noll collaborates to repair pointing at a standard high enough for nuclear power stations. Andreas Zawierucha, a Qualified German Assessor and Master Decorator, is an expert in the use of internal renders and coatings, from natural clay based plasters to coatings based on natural plant and mineral products.

Craftsmen today cannot just rely on tradition; they also have to take into account modern analytic techniques and new methods that have been introduced. Sharing information on up-to-date good practice is therefore important for organisations involved in restoration and renovation. Extending this across national boundaries makes sense. The German delegation had already brought along a useful White Paper on an expert discussion on the pros and cons of different cleaning techniques.

During the talks it became apparent that there was a real possibility of providing apprentices with work experience abroad for both sides. Marie-Theres Lütje of the Handwerkskammer (Chamber of Crafts) Düsseldorf, offered herself as the German contact for such future links. It also appeared that it would be beneficial for the German experts to meet up with UK National Trust counterparts for more exchanges in the future. 

The constructive and positive meeting between the German delegation and the National Trust has opened the door for potential future collaborations and exchanges.

 

RESIDENCE OF THE GERMAN AMBASSADOR RECEIVING FACELIFT

The delegation was made aware of the significant differences between renovation and conservation in the UK and Germany when they went on to meet with the architects involved in the renovation of the facade of the residence of German Ambassador in Belgrave Square. Markus Seifermann of London based architects Patalab found himself continually acting as a bridge between the two cultures.

The residence is a Grade I listed building, dating back to 1825 and therefore falls under the strictest UK regulations. The outer facade is made of render that has been exposed to the elements and London’s pollution and therefore a substantial proportion has to be replaced. In addition, the decorative features such as lion’s heads and Tudor roses have to be recast, using moulds made from the few remaining intact specimens.

The difference between the two different national practices was illustrated to the delegates with the following example. Under German regulations, changes are permitted to listed buildings that will enhance their lifetime and in part include modern features. One of the original suggestions was therefore that the sills on the residence facade be given a lead lining to prevent water seepage and damage to the external render. The UK strategy for Grade I listed buildings is different. There were two main considerations – 1. The need to replace like with like and avoid the addition of extra non-period elements and 2. The residence forms part of a series of harmoniously connected buildings on the square. 

The protective lead lining was therefore not appropriate historically and visually, even if this meant that the facade would need renovating again in a couple of decades. The German Embassy respects the UK practice of having a living building that retains its original nature.

The delegation was also given a tour of the actual site, climbing up several floors on the scaffolding to see the existing situation and the planned work close up. Where the plaster had been removed, the underlying brickwork could be seen. Like most of the properties on Belgrave Square, the bricks were made from clay excavated and fired on site, with some of the mortar used being Thames mud. The excavations were infilled with rubble from St Catherine’s Docks.

Markus Seifermann also explained the vital role of the contractor in any building project. It is the contractor who takes on the main responsibility for the work done on site, either by their own staff or by “subs” that they have subcontracted to do certain elements. It was therefore extremely important for any expert coming in to help out on a particular site to build good relations with the contractor. The ideal situation would be where the contractor themselves chose the experts for the work.

The visit to the residence of the German Ambassador had given the delegation both important conceptual and practical insights into restoration in the UK.

 

GERMAN DELEGATES:

Eberhard Juengst (English speaker and lead contact): Jos-Renigung Nord: Expert & specialist in cleaning building facades using a whole range of methods, including a low pressure vortex system. Considerable experience in working on heritage buildings both in Germany, the UK and abroad. He was accompanied by Mr Koenig.

Franz Noll: Fugunternehmen Noll, specialising in the repair of mortar and joints in historic (and conventional) buildingsotheheritage objects.

Andreas Zawierucha (English speaker), Malermeister (Master Decorator), Qualified Assessor: Expertise in the skin of buildings, both inside and externally. Use of innovative clay and other interior coatings, based on natural plant and mineral products to provide a greener living environment.

Marie-Theres Luetje (English speaker) and lead contact from the NRW Handwerkskammer Duesseldorf, who organised the meetings

 

UK DELEGATES:

Rory Cullen, Head of buildings, National Trust

Lizzie Long, National Trust apprenticeships program

Markus Seifermann, Patalab. Architect on site at the residence of the German Ambassador facade restoration

Dr Chris Thomas, Milton Contact Ltd. DE-GB facilitator

 

SOURCE AND LEAD CONTACT:

Eberhard Jüngst, 

JOS-Reinigung-Nord/Jüngst GmbH

Gerichtstr. 6

48565 Steinfurt

Germany

T: +49 (0) 2551 81592

F: +49 (0) 2551 81593

E: info@jos-reinigung-nord.de

W: www.jos-reinigung-nord.de

 

PHOTOGRAPHS

Photographs of the delegates and their hosts can be downloaded at a resolution of 1600 x 1200 pixels (print quality at 300 DPM for pictures up to 5 x 4", 15cm x 10 cm) here:

Meeting with National Trust

https://picasaweb.google.com/107595387761034666575/LondonNRWRestorators#...

https://picasaweb.google.com/107595387761034666575/LondonNRWRestorators#...

 

Meeting at residence of the German Ambassador

https://picasaweb.google.com/107595387761034666575/LondonNRWRestorators#...

https://picasaweb.google.com/107595387761034666575/LondonNRWRestorators#...

 

Photo credit – photo miltoncontact

 

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Text and photos by Dr Chris Thomas, Milton Contact Ltd.

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