This year, the SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) has given our students the opportunity to work on a live project in ‘St. Andrew’s Chapel’, near Boxley Abbey, Maidstone. Built in the 15th and the 16th century and modified in the 19th century, the ‘chapel’ is currently in an advanced state of decay. The SPAB is currently surveying the building with the view to restore it. Our students visited the site several times and were guided by SPAB specialists. SPAB Director MatthewSlocombe introduced the Society’s work and project officer Jonny Garlick surveyed the building with the students and gave us an unforgettable tour of Boxley Abbey, focusing on previous SPAB repair work. During the Spring Term, the students will prepare a conservation plan, engaging in tasks that reflect their individual backgrounds. Those with an architectural background have the option to design the adaptation of the building into a new use. Students with backgrounds in other fields have several options which include researching the building’s history, analysing its significance and drafting conservation strategies. The resulting work will be submitted to the SPAB with the aim to contribute to the future conservation of this magnificent building.
For further information on the SPAB’s current ‘old house project’, see: https://www.spab.org.uk/old-house-project
Unité d’Habitation, Marseille (1945-1952), Le Corbusier. Restoration of the West Facade, discussed by Judy Loach.
The MSc in Architectural Conservation module ‘Conservation Principles’ had another very positive year. Manolo Guerci, the module convenor writes:
This year, our students included professionals in different fields, from the planning to the conservation sector, as well as from architectural practice. The module involved the theoretical as well as the practical analysis of areas based in Canterbury, but not exclusively, considering that students can chose their own sites for both tasks related to the module. This year we also benefited again from the lectures of international experts. Prof. Judi Loach, professor emerita at the University of Cardfif, and a leading scholar in the field of architectural conservation, delivered a stimulating lecture on ‘The 20th century, a case study: ways of conserving Le Corbusier’ (see photo). Prof. Loach had led DocoMomo UK, and her expertise in the topic was extremely useful to our cohort.
Marcon students also benefit from an extensive corpus of weekly lectures and seminars organised by the three reseach centres in the school, respectively dealing with history and theory, sustainable environment, and digital architecture. The school’s student association also runs a programme of lectures, while our PhD students give weekly seminars where their research is presented in an informal environment. Indeed, students of the MSc in Architectural Conservation and other programmes often continue with doctoral research in the school.. Joining our programme is an excellent way to both gain expertise in the broader field of conservation, and to equip yourself for further academic research.
The MSc in Architectural Conservation of the University of Kent provides students with a unique opportunity to work on real conservation projects, preparing conservation plans, structural reports and design proposals. During the last academic year, the students worked on the restoration of the Sheerness Dockyard Church. Designed by George Ledwell Taylor, and currently one of the few remaining Regency dockyard churches, this monument was tragically destroyed by fire in 2001. The students’ archival research into the history of the monument revealed an unknown building phase and provided the basis for an outstanding reconstruction proposal. This work was carried out by multidisciplinary teams which brought together students of different backgrounds, including architects, art historians and civil engineers. Combining these skills, our students produced documents of outstanding quality, which have the potential to inform the future development of the church.
The drawings shown below form part of the project submitted in April 2016 by Bradley Lowe, Dogancan Erol, Xi Dai, and Haobo Wang,
Exploring the roof spaces
Canterbury Cathedral has seen hundreds of millions of visitors through its doors throughout the centuries with its renovated Gothic architecture being well known, not just within Canterbury but world wide. Fortunately for us, as part of the Architecture Conservation MSc Course at Kent University we got to have a private tour of the spaces which aren’t so commonly seen by those visiting. This involved exploring the roof spaces above the vaulted ceiling and looking at the masonry repair work which is currently being carried out on the very large south window. The following are two different photos which explore different elements of the cathedral, both of which have had conservation strategies applied to them or undergone some repair and maintenance.
The other side of the Vaults
Behind the scenes of the vaulted aisles are a maze of structural timbers and beams which don’t only support the roof structure, but also the walkways which can be found throughout the roof space. This supported walkway system has been installed along with intermittent fire doors and dividing walls. This addition was vital for fire safety of the cathedral as it reduces the risk of a fire spreading by containing it to different areas, therefore reducing damage as much as possible. The curved shape of the vault can still be seen on this side, although slightly less due to the layers of plaster which have been added for support and repair over the years.
It was a really fantastic experience for us as a class to see the other side of the building that feels quite familiar. This enabled us to gain a better sense of the different intervention methods that have been shaped the cathedral in the last five centuries.
In November 2015, I visited Birmingham as the course’s representative for the “Connection Day” of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. Having arrived at 10:30, I had one hour before the start of the event and 3 hours after the event to explore the city.
I arrived at the New Street train station (see photo, below). The first station was constructed in 1854 and rebuilt in the 1960s. However, the present station is much more recent: it opened in September 2015. The most significant aspect of the station was its roof. It has a fascinating impact on the visitors’ experience in my view.
New Street was decorated with Christmas lights and there were also lots of German style log cabins. They were offering German beers, chocolates and traditional clothes and gift wares. The festive atmosphere of the street was really impressive.
My first stop was at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, at the end of New Street. This huge building first opened in 1885 and is grade 2 listed . I am always impressed by the museums of this period… indeed, the residents of Birmingham are fortunate to have such an admirable museum in their city.
The streetscape of Birmingham is so varied. As you are walking around, you can easily distinguish the different styles. And in spite of the differences, the unity of character between Georgian, Victorian and Modern buildings is fabulous.
St. Philip’s Cathedral seems to be one of the oldest buildings in the city centre. It was built in 1715. This Grade 1 listed building is one of the most impressive English Baroque buildings I have seen. Thomas Archer is the designer. It was interesting to find that the tower, the climax of the design, could not be completed due to economic reasons and was only added 10 years after the rest was built.
After this quick exploration, I headed for ‘The Old Joint Stock Pub and Theatre’, where the I.H.B.C. meeting was taking place. Built in 1862 and designed by J.A. Chatwin, this is a good example of Victorian Eclecticism – you can even observe some little Gothic touches in the upper windows. This grade 2 listed building was first designed as a library. However, it served as a bank some decades later. In 1997 it was finally converted into a pub. The theatre opened in 2006. This was one of best designed pubs I have ever seen.
After the meeting I continued my exploration of the city centre with a visit of the Methodist Central Hall, which seemed to me to be a bit neglected. Constructed as a church in 1902, it is now a grade 2 listed building. Having remained empty for several years, it reopened as a nightclub in 2007!
This visit was both interesting and memorable. I always found that explorations like this one broaden one’s horizon. I was really grateful for that opportunity to both Dr. Nikolaos Karydis and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.