About conference and conference aims
Masonry structures are the heart of civilization as we understand it – foundations, backbone, and underlying form. Historically constructed of stone, brick or other more accessible materials in their context such as mud etc. they have contributed to creating what we now might consider inspiring or ‘picturesque’ settlements around the world, whether still in use or as vocal remains from past.
The builders of the time, whether local village tradesmen or master masons, transmitted their knowledge of effective ways of building in or for given contexts. These ideas and methods spread throughout their own regions, and further afield, to be adapted as required to cater for differing climatic, social, religious or political needs as suited to their time. As witness to those past needs and processes these constructs can be read and interpreted in many ways, and in current times much of this knowledge and our own culture’s fundamental relationship with those skills and earth grown materials thrives as a powerful living tradition.
Over time historic buildings become exposed to widely differing challenges. Today, many old masonry structures may often be perceived as ‘decayed’ due to degradation by force of nature, force majeure or as a consequence of passing time and simple neglect. Sometimes caused by inappropriate interventions, reversible or irreversible, made without understanding of possible consequences.
Additional layers of value in our perception of historic structures may come from not only the built artefacts themselves but by tracing old industrial sites of brick production or stone quarries from which stones were taken, discovering and understanding manufacturing technologies and traditional buildings techniques. In brief, decay of these structures varies hugely in its scale and nature, but often we love and value those decayed structures beyond their historic, social, political, memorial or religious importance, through innate human need and emotional appeal, maybe we ‘need’ them for our own social and mental stability in our increasingly challenging world?
How though might we perceive this decay technically? As a matter of physical degradation only, as visible traces of history, or as something else. If a structure is considered to be of value then these questions open pathways to the issue of intervention – preservation, conservation, or even none? Inappropriate intervention to buildings or structures risks losing the patina that creates their charm or cause further damage. Attempting to understand all the possible values, whether historic, architectural, aesthetic, artistic or intangible while determining potential action in contemporary time, is to question our response to decay: should the actual decay become a part of the buildings‘ future – what would that mean?
At the 5th International Conference "The Importance of Place-The Charm of Built Heritage Decay" 2021, we are anticipating discussions around patterns of decay, including metaphysical attributes. We are inviting distinguished guests, including professionals in the discipline of heritage engagement to share and discuss their experiences, knowledge, points of view, and potential interventions on the masonry building, the relationship between patina and new additions, opinions around preservation and conservation alongside wider attitudes towards decay, and its eternal intrinsic appeal.