Fowler Angus (Marburg, Germany)
Preservation, documentation, research and long-term sustainable care and maintenance of wooden buildings, especially religious ones VkontakteFacebook

Summary: Historic buildings and monuments, especially wooden ones, in particular churches, need regular care and maintenance by inspection and necessary repairs, that is the principle of preventive maintenance. All the more as traditional forms of caretakership have diappeared or are disppearing. Public and private funds invested in restoration must be better guaranteed for the long-term future, at least one hundred years and not just thirty or forty years as has been the case until now. This must be part of an environmental and cultural policy, sustainable development which has now been decided as UNESCO strategy for World Heritage. Best examples for preventive maintenance are the Monument Watch organizations in the Netherlands (founded in the 1970s and looking after some 24,000 buildings), Flanders/Belgium (1991, ca. 6,500 buildings), Monumentendienst Weser-Ems, Lower Saxony, Germany (2004, ca. 1,500), most recently the Kizhi Pogost Museum in Karelia/Russia, as well as several other organizations in Denmark, England, Scotland, Slovakia. The UNESCO Chair for Preventive Maintenance is based at the University of Louvain/Leuven in Belgium together with the association PRECOMOS.

Keywords: Preventive maintenance; Facility management/caretakers; Inspection/control; inspectors; Check list; Remedial repairs; Monument Watch; Common standards; Training;

Аннотация: Исторические здания и памятники, особенно, деревянные, в частности, церкви нуждаются в регулярном уходе, который осуществляется путем осмотра и проведения необходимых ремонтов, то есть посредством профилактического техобслуживания. Тем более, когда традиционные формы попечительства уже исчезли или продолжают исчезать. Государственные и частные средства, инвестируемые в реставрацию, должны быть гарантированы в долгосрочной перспективе, по крайней мере, сто лет, а не тридцать или сорок, как это было до недавнего времени. Это должно быть частью экологической и культурной политики, устойчивого развития, определенного на данный момент в качестве стратегии ЮНЕСКО для Всемирного наследия. Лучшие примеры осуществления профилактического обслуживания – это организация Monument Watch в Нидерландах (основана в 1970-е годы, обслуживает около 24000 зданий), Фландрия/Бельгия (1991 год, около 6500 зданий), Monumentendienst Weser-Ems, Нижняя Саксония, Германия (2004 год, около 1500 зданий), совсем недавно Кижский Погост в Карелии/Россия, а также ряд других организаций в Дании, Англии, Шотландии и Словакии. Кафедра ЮНЕСКО по профилактическому обслуживанию основана на базе университета Лёвен в Бельгии совместно с ассоциацией PRECOMOS.

Ключевые слова: Профилактическое обслуживание; Техническое обслуживание здания/попечители; Технический осмотр/контроль; инспекторы; Практический перечень; Восстановительные ремонты; Monument Watch (организация); Общие стандарты; Подготовка;

Сохранение, документирование, изучение, превентивная консервация и обслуживание деревянных зданий (особенно культовых).

Wooden buildings have not always fared well in the past. In contrast to stone, wood is a more perishable material, can suffer from insects and fungi, and can decay and rot if not cared for and treated. Many wooden buildings have been destroyed by fire and natural catastrophes and from human action, as a result of ideology/politics (as in Russia in Soviet times) in wars and demolition, especially when wooden buildings have been despised for being old fashioned and representing a poor backward rural society, the population often being ashamed of them (for instance in Poland and Germany after 1945). Wooden churches were being replaced by stone ones already in the 11th and 12th centuries. In the 15th century and later timber-framed churches in north Germany and England were being clad with brick outer shells, in the 18th century many timber-framed buildings were plastered to give the appearance of stone buildings. Straw and reed roofs were being replaced by tiles and slates – for better protection against fire. Further waves of replacement have taken place in the 19th and 20th centuries. Much destruction of wooden and timber-framed buildings took place in the 2nd World War, Nazi forces in Poland destroyed all wooden synagogues there, the oldest from the first half of the 17th century. In many countries further demolition took place in the name of modern progress after 1945 until the 1970s. In Poland wooden churches have been set on fire deliberately to make way for new churches, in Norway stave churches have been destroyed by arson, in Hungary also a wooden church, by „Heavy Metal“ groups/sects. No wonder that in recent years there have been international conferences on better fire precautions and alarm systems for wooden churches in particular.

All the more wonder that wooden and timber-framed buildings have survived at all and have remained for us to treasure them as historic buildings and monuments! The oldest surviving wooden church in Europe - the nave in timber palisade form, heavily restored around 1848 - stands in Greensted in Essex in England, dating from the late 11th century. I was born and grew up quite near to this church which I have known from my childhood. Nearby there are churches which have wooden towers or belfries going back to the 13th century and there are still many other timber-framed buildings some going back to the 14th century in Essex, also magnificent wooden roof constructions of churches, some from the late 11th and 12th centuries. So perhaps I can say that I have wooden and timber-framed constructions in my blood. In Japan exist wooden temples, whose tradition goes back to the 8th and 9th centuries, where continual replacement has taken place, perpetuating the buildings until the present day. Wood constructions can be more resilient against earthquakes and even fire than modern constructions of concrete and steel which can buckle under great heat, wood sometimes only charring externally.

Traces of wooden/timber-framed churches going back to the earliest Christian times (7th - 9th centuries) have been found through archaeological research in various places in western, central and northern Europe and even before then pagan temples and cult centres were of wood construction. Some 30 churches with wooden/timber-framed constructions (“Fachwerk-Kirchen”) survive scattered over southern and western England, several from the 13th and 14th centuries. In Ireland, Scotland and northern England, where many of the earliest churches were of wood, however none now remain, perhaps because they were more perishable in a damper climate, yet stave and other wooden churches in Norway and elsewhere in Scandinavia, Russia and eastern Europe have survived in similar but colder conditions. In France some 20/30 timber-framed churches, mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries,  survive in Champagne and Normandy. In the federal state of Hessen in central Germany some 250 timber-framed churches still survive, the oldest from the 15th century, many elsewhere in central and northern Germany. However after 1945 until the 1980s during the “economic wonder”,  when much money from church taxes was available for building new churches (1950s-1970s),  over 60 timber-framed churches were demolished in Hessen, often replaced by massive stone/concrete buildings. Also some timber-framed synagogues, which had survived the “Third Reich”/Nazi times as they were closely surrounded by houses in villages, were demolished, their importance and ethical value not recognized.

Recent dendrochronological research has dated some timber-framed churches in northern Germany to the early 14th century, the earliest now surviving in Hessen is dated ca. 1440. Some churches with timber-frames and particularly towers in eastern Germany are covered with boards (“Schrotholz-Kirchen”) just as in southern Poland, the oldest was built about 1420. Timber constructions have also been found behind brick cladding. Wooden roof constructions of otherwise stone or brick buildings can be dated back to the 13th century, sometimes older. In Poland the oldest wooden churches seem to date from the 15th century. There were many wooden or timber-framed synagogues in central and eastern Europe, the oldest known from the early 17th century, and in the Ottoman dominions wooden mosques. Mosques were often cared for by charitable foundations.

Indeed it was the owners or caretakers of wooden and timber-framed buildings who maintained and continually repaired their buildings. Landowners and lords as patrons of churches often had to contribute to the maintenance of a church or part of a church, for instance the chancel. Towns often had to maintain church towers because of their defensible and watch character. The local population was often involved in the maintenance of the buildings as owners or carers. In some areas, for instance in the area west of Marburg/Hessen called “Hinterland”,  timber-framed chapels were in the possession and care of the communities themselves. Being on the spot through their daily view of their buildings they carried out themselves „inspections“ or „control“ and practically a simple system of „protective maintenance“ and remedial repairs.[текст с сайта музея-заповедника "Кижи": http://kizhi.karelia.ru]

Already in the 19th century interested citizens, academics, architects etc. began to campaign for the preservation of wooden buildings. Interest in wooden buildings developed in particular with the Romantic Movement and the development of national and regional patriotism in the 19th century. In Germany many history societies were founded, for instance in 1834 for the state Hessen-Kassel, they were much concerned with archaeological monuments but also with endangered buildings, including wooden ones, and began to compile the first lists of monuments/historic buildings. In Norway in the 1840s the Society of Antiquaries was founded and immediately began to save and restore stave churches. In 1840/41 King Frederick Wilhelm IV of Prussia helped to save the stave church in Vang from the late 12th century and it was reerected in Brückenberg (now Karpaczy Gorny) in the Riesengebirge in Silesia (now Poland). In England after many years of preparation the National Trust was finally founded in 1895 and began with the acquisition of a medieval timber-framed priest's house. Regulations concerning preservation of monuments were already being made in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In Prussia the famous architect and court  building director Karl Friedrich Schinkel was very active in this respect after 1813 until his death in 1841, although he himself seems to have had little or no interest in wooden buildings.

For the documentation of historic buildings, including wooden and timber-framed ones, photography (first really practised in 1839) was increasingly used. In Marburg in Hessen in Germany Ludwig Bickell began his work documenting historic buildings around 1870. His collection of some 3500 photographic plates, owned by the Marburg History Society and preserved now in the famous photographic archive, Bildarchiv Foto Marburg,  still survives, many of them showing timber-framed buildings. Bickell also published works with many drawings of wooden architecture. Just 30 years old, he gave up his career as an administrative official in 1868 after the Prussians annexed Hessen-Kassel in 1866 and devoted himself privately to collecting antiquities, developing photography as a medium of documentation and preserving buildings. He became Conservator of the collection of antiquities of the History Society of Hessen-Kassel in 1875 and eventually in 1892 first Prussian regional conservator for Hessen-Kassel. He had already helped to compile a pocket-book inventory of historic buildings published in 1870, and then at the end of his life himself compiled an official Prussian inventory (for the Gelnhausen district near Frankfurt/Main) with many of his photographs. Karl Schäfer, University and Town Architect in Marburg around 1870, later Professor in Berlin and Karlsruhe, one of Germany's leading architects of neo-Gothic buildings, published a timber-framed house in Marburg built in the early 14th century, then considered the oldest in Germany,  which was photographed by Bickell before it was demolished to make way for a new building. In 1900 the architectural historian Georg Dehio organized the first German Conservation day and soon after many regional cultural organizations, the Heimatbünde, were founded by interested citizens. In the 1930s they were hijacked by the Nazi movement. Because of  this involvement with the Nazi regime after 1945 interest for historic buildings and especially wooden ones was considered old-fashioned and nationalistic. Existing conservation laws and regulations were practically ignored so that after 1945 in the years of the „economic wonder“ in Germany, in particular in the 1950s and 1960s, many historic buildings, especially wooden and timber-framed ones, including many timber-framed churches, were destroyed and swept away in the name of modern progress, they were not protected in any way and disappeared often unnoticed and completely undocumented and not photographed, except for the efforts of private individuals such as the French founder of the FAK Marburg, Jean Chanel. There was little sense of identity, the official state conservation authorities were very weak.

However interested academics, some architects and many citizens began to react against this destruction not only in Germany but elsewhere in Europe. Roughly coinciding with the student protests in the late 1960s, they now began to organize themselves in societies and organizations, just as they had done in the 19th and early 20th century. The Förderkreis Alte Kirchen (FAK) (Society for the Preservation of Old Churches) was founded in 1973 especially, but not only, to prevent further destruction of timber-framed churches – about 70 were demolished after 1945, some 250 still survive today. In 1974 together with other organizations and initiatives the FAK with the help of the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation organized in Marburg the first major conference protesting against demolition and put sufficient pressure on the government and parliament of the State of Hessen that they passed in September 1974 the first effective preservation law for the whole of Hessen (in the south Hessen-Darmstadt already had a law of 1902). In 1975 during the European Heritage Year NGOs organized a major exhibition in Marburg Castle on endangered buildings and the need for better protection and restoration.The FAK Marburg prepared with the help of experts the first extensive German book (“Fachwerkkirchen in Hessen”) with a catalogue of all known timber-framed churches in Hessen in the well known art series „Blaue Bücher“, first published in 1976, which served as the first provisional official monument list for timber-framed churches in Hessen as many were not listed and unprotected. Over 30,000 copies of the book have been sold. The demolition of timber-framed churches in Hessen practically ceased in the 1980s as a result of the work of the FAK Marburg, helped by the Preservation Law for Hessen of 1974.

Since the 1970s in Western Germany and after 1990 in Eastern Germany (DDR) many private/citizens' organizations, i.e. NGOs, have been founded and developed to save, preserve and restore historic buildings, helped by increasing financial support from state and other resources. The FAK Marburg itself took into its possession four endangered churches, three timber-framed, and with official but also much private help (many donations etc.) has restored them, spending about 1 Mill. Euro. In 1985 the German Foundation for the Protection of Monuments was founded and since 1990 has spent much money helping to restore buildings particularly in eastern Germany. Since the 1970s much building investigation, research, dating by dendrochronology, has taken place also on many timber-framed and wooden buildings, so that their importance/value is now much better recognized. In north Germany Tilo Schöfbeck in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Gorden Thalmann in Brandenburg have worked closely with the leading dendrochronology expert in eastern Germany, Karl-Uwe Heussner, redating several timber-framed churches back to the early 14th century, roof constructions even into the 13th century. Similar results have taken place in northern Poland. Timber constructions have been discovered behind later brick cladding. As already mentioned much restoration has taken place – however no systematic inspection/control with remedial repairs as preventive maintenance to guarantee long-term preservation and sustainability to protect in the long-term the considerable financial investment by the state, tax-payers and many private donations. It is still generally thought that a good restoration will hold for 30 or 40 years – but this is often a delusion and can mean that in future large payments for restoration must be made again. Today this can not and should not be afforded. In many places however the traditionally interested and active owners, caretakers and carers in villages (and towns) no longer exist, so there is often no longer a system of natural „control“.

The qualitative leap forward from the traditional cycle of decay, accumulation of needs for repairs and then expensive restoration, began in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Around 1970 in the Netherlands conservation officers, architects and others interested became increasingly concerned with the better preservation of historic buildings by a system of regular inspection and immediate remedial repairs, we would now say better facility management, just as we have or should have our teeth and eyes and health generally regularly checked and treated if necessary. Similarly motor vehicles are checked regularly and repairs if needed carried out immediately – for reasons of safety. Inspections should take place especially soon after restorations have been finished to make sure that the work has been done well and properly. There are many examples of bad work done, also wrong methods or materials have been used. In the late 1980s the roof of the Castle Church in Weilburg/Lahn in Germany was not ventilated after complete insulation so that dry rot soon set in and the work had to be repeated at very great cost. Similarly the mosque in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, restored with considerable funding from the German Foundation in the early 1990s, had problems of drainage of its roof as a result of bad work and much money will have to spent again on restoration. So why is it so difficult for citizens, in particular public authorities but also even insurance firms to realize that such checks and repairs are equally important and necessary also for buildings, especially historic ones on the restoration of which often much public and private money has been spent? It is taking a very long time for the need for preventive maintenance to be recognized and action to carry it out to be taken. There was no mention of preventive maintenance and the important work done since the 1970s by Monument Watch in the Netherlands, in Flanders/Belgium since 1991 or by Monumentendienst Weser-Ems since 2004, in the proceedings of an important conference at the Monument Fair in Leipzig in 2010 on the maintenance of buildings. However when I eventually discovered the conference was taking place and was able to attend for a short time right at its end I did mention the Monument Watch approach briefly. The reason may be that in Germany as probably also in Russia and elsewhere conservation is often in the hand of art and architectural historians with no technical training, also architects and engineers do not treat the Monument Watch approach seriously, all jealously unhelpful and guarding their competence and authority like dragons. We desperately need a change of approach. In particular we must recognize that our resources are becoming limited in various ways and we must protect, maintain and care for buildings by preventive maintenance as a matter of environmental policy.[текст с сайта музея-заповедника "Кижи": http://kizhi.karelia.ru]

In the Netherlands the major breakthrough took place in 1975 when the Dutch Minister of Finance became convinced of the need for a system of continual regular inspection and remedial repairs to save State, taxpayer and donors the great costs of restorations every 30/40 years. The Minister supported the systematic development of the Monument Watch organization with considerable financial resources. In the last resort it is the politicians who must be convinced and ultimately decide on such a policy and the allocation of sufficient financial resources in the best interest of the State. Recent research in the Netherlands has shown not only that indeed there has been a great financial saving for State, taxpayers and donors by the work of Monument Watch but also that the stock of historic buildings generally is now in much better condition than 40/50 years ago. The example of Monument Watch has been overwhelming, also for owners of buildings not yet inspected by Monument Watch. There is also in the Netherlands now an Archaeological Monument Watch and for a time there was an excellent service for parks and gardens. There is close cooperation with the State conservation authorities, however owners of buildings place much importance on the objectivity and independence of Monument Watch and that they are not controlled by the State. Owners who receive financial support from the State in the Netherlands, however, must now have their buildings regularly inspected by Monument Watch.

Altogether in the Netherlands some 24,000 (twenty four thousand!) historic buildings/complexes of all types are inspected and given immediate remedial repairs by Monument Watch, which was first an association, then a national foundation with a Monument Watch in each province, at the moment it is  undergoing reorganization. Owners pay a modest fee of 40 Euros annually and then 28 Euros per hour per inspector; work and materials used are freed from Value Added Tax. The inspectors, often two together, with a small van with all the necessary equipment and materials needed, first compile a survey/check-list on the condition of the complete building and its parts, then for the owners a list and recommendations of the measures/ repairs needed immediately and in the middle and long-term. Greater restoration work if necessary is carried out by restorers, architects and engineers. After initial opposition architects, engineers and restorers soon discovered that they got more work through the prior activity of Monument Watch. It is important that the inspectors are usually well-trained, young technicians, who have to be physically fit and that inspection and remedial repair is in the hands of the same persons as this reduces the financial cost considerably, making it more attractive to the owners. The inspectors now also include women. Altogether some 200 teams of inspectors work for Monument Watch in the Netherlands.

As mentioned the similar organization in Flanders in Belgium was established in 1991 and is an association, now looking after some 6.500 buildings/complexes not just the exteriors but also the interiors, particularly of churches. Similar organizations were established in Denmark, now after financial support from the State ceased, as a private company, only for inspection. In England the National Trust cares for its own buildings, otherwise the organization Maintain Our Heritage has gutters of churches cleaned by a professional service. In Germany the work of Monument Watch in the neighbouring Netherlands was being closely observed in the 1990s, for instance by the Association of State Conservators of Monuments, maintenance contracts were developed but without widespread development, A monument service was set up in Potsdam and Fulda as an NGO, took part in the first international conference organized by Monument Watch in 2000 in Amsterdam, and organized the first German national meeting on the subject at the Leipzig Monument Fair in 2004. In 2003 DenkmalWacht Brandenburg-Berlin had already been founded as a lobby organization carrying out trial inspections. Soon after with help from the Monument Watch in the Province Groningen, Monumentendienst Weser-Ems in the neighbouring western Lower Saxony was established through a cross-border INTERREG project financed by the European Union. At the moment Monumentendienst Weser-Ems looks after some 1,400 buildings/complexes, also for a modest annual fee and 28 Euro per hour per inspector. The reduced rate of 7% for Value Added Tax is paid, there are discounts with the Regional Fire Insurance Company for its members who have their buildings inspected. More recently the Thüringische Bauwerksinspektion was established as a charitable organization, in the Potsdam area near Berlin the private firm Denkmal-wartung, at the beginning cleaning buildings of graffiti and then looking after buildings of the City of Potsdam and now also private buildings. Very recently Monumentenwacht Saxony was founded with the support of the state conservation authority in that state. In Lower Saxony a further regional Monumentendienst for the Weserbergland is being developed, supported by the district government of the Landkreis Holzminden and it seems also with funds from the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. DenkmalWacht Brandenburg and the umbrella group BAUDID for Monument Watch organizations in Germany organized a conference in the Federal Parliament/Reichstag in Berlin and have taken part regularly at the biannual Monument Fairs in Leipzig with stands, talks and an international conference. The German Foundation for Preservation of Monuments organized a conference in 2008 and will hold another one this year in Bonn on 27th October at which Monument Watch Netherlands/Gelderland will be represented. The German Foundation itself owns some 40 monuments, a daughter organization also mansions in Brandenburg, and has supported the restoration of some 5,000 buildings with great financial input and itself now sees an urgent need for the development of a system of sustainable maintenance. A regional conference last September in Wernigerode (Saxony-Anhalt) organized by the Federation of local associations for Churches in Saxony-Anhalt, the Förderkreise Alte Kirchen in Brandenburg-Berlin and Marburg, the association „Churches in Need in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern“ and DenkmalWacht Brandenburg-Berlin, attended by representatives of the Protestant Church in Central Germany, the German Foundation for Preservation of Monuments and also by some regional conservators from Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,  recommended progress by small steps, using the existing organizations Monumentendienst Weser-Ems, Denkmalwartung in Brandenburg and the Thüringische Bauwerksinspektion, for buildings restored with help from the German Foundation, but also training owners, church councils, associations and other carers to check their buildings regularly with the help of a simple check-list.  There is a great need to develope common standards, criteria and methods, not only in Germany but also together with the major model organizations the Monument Watches in the Netherlands and Flanders/Belgium, if possible in cooperation with the UNESCO Chair for Preventive Maintenance at the University of Louvain/Löwen in Belgium, founded some years ago at the instigation of  Professor Kuenrad van Balen, which has already held several international conferences, workshops and projects (PRECOMOS). Monument Watch Netherlands together with Monument Watch Flanders and with financial help from the Norwegian Cultural Foundation has carried out various missions with conferences and workshops particularly in central Europe to develope organizations there, in particular in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic. There is now a need for a further international conference (after the first and last one until now in 2000 in Amsterdam) with all existing organizations in Europe. The development of Monument Watch organizations with regular inspections and remedial repairs should be particularly attractive to Fire and Building Insurance companies, giving more security. Indeed owners of buildings primarily want more security in the long-term conservation of their buildings. A conference on maintenance of buildings but in the traditional way by restoration, without any mention of the Monument Watch approach, will take place on 19th September 2016 and the following days in west Poland, organized by the Antikon organization of Stettin Fair together with the conservation authorities in northern and western Poland and in neighbouring Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. In these regions preventive maintenance has still to be established.

As the English say: „A stitch in time saves nine“.

// Системный подход к сохранению памятников деревянного зодчества
Составитель А.Е.Косканен
Интернет-публикация kizhi.karelia.ru. 2017.

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