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Conservation of Heritage Buildings

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Architect: Amal Mohammed Fathi


‘It is important to understand why we are drawn to a good building of any age, first there is the intellectual achievement of creating an artifact of beauty and interest, second the human achievement perceived by later generations in the care of craftsmen in its construction ,this care can also be visible in later repairs and alterations ,third , we are drawn by the sense of place created both by the designers and many humans who have lived and worked in the buildings ‘

(Alan Baxter ___ Journal of Architectural conservation,no.2,July 2001)


Preservation of heritage buildings is a vital component of urban revitalization efforts. There is an impressive variety of ways to look at the many ways that the conservation of heritage buildings helps us all.


Basically, all conservation consists of actions taken to prevent decay, Architecture conservation is more complex; first because a building must continue to stand up; secondly Economic factors usually dictate that it should remain in use; Thirdly it has to resist and use the effects of climate; and, lastly, a whole team of “professionals” have to collaborate. A professional can be defined as a person who contributes artistically, intellectually or practically to a project. The principals professions involved in architectural conservation are architects, archeologists, building economists, structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers, art historians, and materials scientists, crafts persons for each material, building contractors, surveyors, and town planners. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the building owner or his representative is also an important collaborator. This list is incomplete, because a project may need other specialists in the team such as biologists and geologists.


The building conservation team should observe certain ethics;

  1. The condition of the building must be fully recorded before any intervention is begun;
  2. The materials and methods used during treatment must be documented;
  3. Historic evidence must not be destroyed, falsified or removed;
  4. Any intervention must be the minimum necessary. It should be reversible or at least repeatable and not prejudice possible future interventions;
  5. Any intervention must be governed by unswerving respect for the aesthetic, historical and physical integrity of cultural property


These are stringent guidelines. Interventions must not hinder later access to all the evidence incorporated in the building.


In order to describe the problems involved in the maintenance and handling of historic building properties on a larger scale, it is useful to base it on the ‘ scientifically ‘ defined principles of restoration as well as the concept of cultural heritage of cultural property.

The first step is to define the objective of a conservation project, the next is to identify the “values” in the object, monument or site that is the cultural property in question, and to place these values in order of priority. In this way, the essential messages of the object will be respected and preserved. The values can be classified under three main headings.

‘ emotional ‘, ‘ cultural ‘and use ‘ values ‘


Emotional Values:

. Wonder

. Identity

. Continuity

. Respect and veneration

. Symbolic and spiritual


Cultural Values:

. Documentary

. Historic

. Archeological and age

. Aesthetic and architectural values

. Townscape

. Landscape and ecological

. Technological and scientific


Use values:

. Functional

. Economic (including tourism)

. Social (including identity and continuity)

. Educational

. Political


These values have to be analyzed, and then synthesized in order to define the ‘ significance ‘ of the historic artefact. Some of these values deserve amplification

Symbolic and spiritual feelings depend on cultural awareness. And also the content of classical allusions in painting, now understood mainly by art historians. Certain architectural forms do, nevertheless, have a spiritual message _ different forms for different cultures and religions, and even in supreme case, such as Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which has served as a church, a mosque, and now a museum, a universal message.


The greatest danger to historic buildings comes from engineers who are unaware of their unique values and apply the codes literally, or who are unwilling to accept responsibility for making judgments. It can be said with some justice, that many a historic building has the options of being destroyed by the codes or by the next earthquake.


And that’s where conservation of heritage buildings is a key factor to keep the collective memory of the inhabitants of the heritage cities, that was necessary to extract solutions to take advantage of heritage buildings in line with the current needs of society which ensures its continuity, and for the benefit of future generations, that would appear back in economical, cultural, tourism, and environmental issues of the whole country.



‘ Conservation of historic buildings ‘ third edition – Bernard M.Feilden

‘ historic buildings: Conservation, Management and Policy issues ‘ – Livio de Santoli

University la Sapienza of Rome, Italy

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