Conservation Principles

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.

Infusing New Life into a Regency Monument, by Course Director, Dr. Nikolaos Karydis

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,


Reconstructed side elevation
Reconstructed side elevation
Reconstructed Elevation of the Church.
Reconstructed Elevation of the Church.
Reconstructed, cut-away perspective of the church
Reconstructed, cut-away perspective of the church
The current state of the monument.
The current state of the monument.

Survey of Canterbury Cathedral, by Josie Sinden

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.

Canterbury Cathedral Roofs
Canterbury Cathedral Roofs
Canterbury Cathedral South Transept Window. View of the new window built in 2015.
Canterbury Cathedral South Transept Window. View of the new window built in 2015.

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.



A Visit to Birmingham (by Dogancan Erol)

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.

Birmingham - New Street Train Station
Birmingham – New Street Train Station
Birmingham - New Street
Birmingham – New Street
Birmingham - National Museum and Art Gallery
Birmingham – National Museum and Art Gallery
Birmingham Cathedral
Birmingham – St. Philip’s Cathedral
Old Joint Stuck Pub
Old Joint Stock Pub
Old Joint Stock Pub
Old Joint Stock Pub

Birmingham Central Hall



Visit to the secret part of Canterbury Cathedral, by Zoi Kokkoni

That Canterbury Cathedral constitutes a fine example of Gothic and Romanesque architecture is widely known. What few people know is that this same building has been restored and partly rebuilt countless times, and, as a result, exemplifies various attitudes to conservation. In our last visit to this monument, we were accompanied by the head of Stone Conservation at the Cathedral, Ms. Heather Newton. Ms. Newton gave us a rare opportunity to explore “the unseen world” of the roof and the tallest tower, Bell Harry. The roof, mostly dating back to the Tudor period, has been divided to several rooms for fire protection. Its beams have been restored numerous times following the rotting of the original timbers. Circulation inside the roof was through a series of timber corridors, which offered access to the ceiling without loading the nave vaults below them.

The most challenging part of our visit was the ascent to the top of Bell Harry, the tower over the crossing. On the base of the tower, we found a sophisticated crack monitoring gauge and a humidity meter that records the micro-climate of the cathedral’s interior. After hundreds of steps, we reached a room where we found the pulley mechanism for the lifting of building materials. On the top of the tower, apart from the old bell mechanism, there is a microscopic meteorological station which is linked to a central computer inside the Cathedral. The highest point of the cathedral is exposed to the weather, and this has caused the decay of the limestone there. Unfortunately, as Ms. Newton explained,this decay seems to have been accelerated by “plastic repairs” carried out in the 1930s. These involved the use of cement mortar to fill cracks and to recapture the lost profiles of stone elements. This hard, impermeable mortar prevents the “breathing” of the wall and the evaporation of moisture. Trapped in the core of the wall, moisture accelerates stone decay caused by frost weathering and the crystallization of salts.

Zoi Kokkoni

View of the Roof of the Chancel of Canterbury Cathedral from the top of the tower over the crossing.
View of the Roof of the Chancel of Canterbury Cathedral from the top of the tower over the crossing.
Heather Newton, Head of Stone Conservation of Canterbury Cathedral (left) and students of the MSc programme in Architectural conservation on the top of "Bell Harry", the central tower of Canterbury Cathedral.
Heather Newton, Head of Stone Conservation of Canterbury Cathedral (left) and students of the MSc programme in Architectural conservation on the top of “Bell Harry”, the central tower of Canterbury Cathedral.

Basilica B at Philippi: retracing the phases of an incomplete monument, by Zoi Kokkoni

Basilica B at Philippi: retracing the phases of an incomplete monument

In the context of the event ‘Archaeology at Kent in 2014’, Dr Nikos Karydis presented the case study of Basilica ‘B’ in Philippi, an archaeological site in Northern Greece near Amphipoli. Apparently, Philippi was a strategic location in the Early Christian Period, when the city’s powerful Christian community decided to erect four churches. Chief among them were the timber-roofed Basilica ‘A’, and Basilica ‘B’, which was a domed basilica, a rare type in the region. The latter occupied three Roman urban blocks, which previously included the Palestra and a commercial building of the Roman Period.
Paul Lemerle, the archaeologist who surveyed the site, proved that Basilica ‘B’ was never completed. The reasons were neither the incapacity of the workmanship, nor the lack of materials. The research of Dr Karydis revealed the most reasonable cause of the collapse of the vaulting. It was shown that the building was constructed on the foundations of a previous building. Now, this earlier building was to echo the plan of the Basilica ‘A’, nearby. Hence, the building was initially conceived as a timber-roof basilica, but, at some point after the foundations were laid, the design changed. The new design abandoned the timber roof in favour of a vaulted ceiling. It therefore demanded large piers to support the vaults, and an alignment between the piers to form square bays. This could not be easily combined with the use of the existing  foundations (which were too weak and lacked the necessary geometry). The load-bearing structure that was eventually built was a compromise, and failed to counteract the thrusts of the wide vaults. Soon after these were erected the church collapsed. The mission of altering the church was condemned from the outset, and proved to be catastrophic for this major monument.

Zoi Kokkoni, 2014

46 N screen and Pier 1 from E

David Watkin Presents his Work on the Roman Forum, by Zoi Kokkoni

On Monday, we attended a lecture on the Roman Forum by Professor David Watkin, one of the most important historians of our times. The “Foro Romano”, visited by millions every year, has had a fascinating and vivid building history from Antiquity to the Present. During this period, the forum was repeatedly modified, and as a result, distinguishing the dates of its buildings is not always easy. Temples that seem to be ancient were in fact erected just eighty years ago. For instance, the Temple of Vesta, in its present form, dates back to the 1930s (Watkin David, The Roman Forum, p.16).

Examining views of the forum, including the famous ones engraved by Piranesi, Watkin revealed the Roman monuments in all their grace and splendour, and traced their development from the Early Cristian Times to the Baroque period. The way in which churches were integrated into old roman edifices was absolutely astonishing. On the other hand, the Nineteenth Century idealized the “magnificent Roman ruins” at the expense of more recent buildings.

After a visit to the Forum it is easy to feel disorientated as you are trying to resolve a puzzle of multiple building phases that make the monuments comparable to palimpsests. Despite the archaeologists’ recent interventions to the site (considered to be “clumsy” by Watkin), the Roman Forum remains an ideal site to study Rome’s history and architecture as well as the development of conservation philosophy.


Zoi Kokkoni 11/2014

The MSc in Architectural Conservation Begins!

The new MSc in Architectural Conservation has started with a site visit to the historic centre of Canterbury, followed by lectures and seminars on Conservation Philosophy and Policy. The lecturers in the first term include Dr. Manolo Guerci, Dr Nikolaos Karydis, and Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin. We have also enjoyed three guest lectures by Martin McKay, Conservation Officer, Medway City Council, who illustrated his lectures with many interesting examples from Medway. We very much look forward to the lectures of Prof. David Watkin and Nick Dermott (Conservation Officer, Margate Council) next week.