Kurek Jan (Krakow, Poland)
Problems of conservation of wooden architecture in Poland VkontakteFacebook

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Summary: The article deals with the history of wooden architecture conservation in Poland from the middle of the XX c to the present. It shows that the key problems of cultural heritage conservation are: vandalism, insufficient study and incomplete description of monuments, use of nontraditional materials and techniques, lack of professional training and, as a result, lack of professional carpenters, architects, and restorers.

Keywords: wooden architecture monuments; conservation; study; restoration; documentation;

Аннотация: Проблемы консервации деревянной архитектуры в Польше. Представлена история сохранения памятников деревянной архитектуры в Польше с середины XX в. до настоящего времени. Показано, что ключевыми проблемами, возникающими при сохранении объектов культурного наследия являются: вандализм, недостаточная изученность и неполное описание памятников, использование нетрадиционных материалов и методов, отсутствие профессионального обучения и, как следствие недостаток профессиональных плотников, архитекторов и реставраторов.

Ключевые слова: памятники деревянного зодчества; сохранение; изучение; реставрация; документирование;

The art of building wooden structures has been improved throughout thousands of years. From a simple hut through wooden fortified castles and great wooden temples of different faiths – such as the orthodox churches and synagogues, wood has been the major building material. Wooden buildings were dominating in cities and villages, therefore thatching roofs with shingle or straw (country houses) often caused fires devouring entire neighborhoods and towns.[текст с сайта музея-заповедника "Кижи": http://kizhi.karelia.ru]

Using wood as a building material is a sign of rational use of this material, its logical design systems and the connection of particular elements. Wood is also a material that allows huge freedom in shaping the form and its architectural detail – in different styles and different cultures.( Fig. 1).

The resources of wood in Central Europe for hundreds of years seemed to be inexhaustible. Nonetheless, wasteful forest management (Shipbuilding) caused a rapid decrease in these resources. Fortunately, today, due to a planned and rational forestry, wood has once again become a renewable material. The current problem however is the preservation of local and global cultural heritage through these historical and ancient wooden buildings for future generations.

Because of the change of living standards, wooden residential buildings are rapidly disappearing from the landscapes of our towns and villages. Only a few number of valuable objects are moved into open-air museums. Some of the rest are “preserved” in drawings and photographic documentations. Unfortunately most of them are being destroyed due to wars, fires, etc. or they are just being demolished, giving space to structures built in different technologies. The situation is very similar with wooden historical churches and orthodox churches. This disturbing phenomenon has been occurring for years. There is still a lack of sufficient funds for the protection of existing resources in this group of monuments. Purposely setting the monuments on fire or even accidental fires are a particular threat in this matter. Hence it is very important to make sure that the most precious buildings are being inventoried, which will enable to restore - reconstruct them in extreme cases.

At the same time it appears that not all of the monuments were scientifically studied. Sometimes detailed studies of conservation are neglected when making a decision about restoration and repair. Because of limited financial resources, we often resign from securing the original damaged elements – replacing them with new elements, which deprives the historical building of its authenticity.( Fig. 2).

In the 50s and 60s, a lot of valuable monuments of wooden architecture were taken care by the state. National preservation services inventoried the basic state resources of wooden architecture. Repairs and restorations of many objects were carried out as well as open air museums have been organized in several regions of the country. At present, there is about 40 open air museums with wooden architecture which include precious objects from various cultural regions around the country. Apart from those, many wooden buildings are being protected in the place of construction. (Fig. 3). [текст с сайта музея-заповедника "Кижи": http://kizhi.karelia.ru]

After World War II, legal framework for the protection of monuments has been established, which also included buildings of wooden architecture. Today however, almost 60 years after postwar reconstructions and repairs, it is neccessary to do re-conservation in many places. This is due to the natural process of destruction caused by weather conditions – especially rain, which causes rotting of wood and facilitates invasion of wood pests i.e. insects that violate the structure of wood.

Another threat to wooden buildings and its furnishings are fires. Its causes may vary… Sometimes they are accidents, and at other times they are a conscious action of an individual. Unfortunately only some of the historic buildings are equipped with monitoring systems and systems that prevent spreading of fires. Hence, in recent years there have been cases where fires destroyed a number of precious wooden buildings, churches and orthodox churches (e.g. In Komańcza). Some of them happen to burn in guarded open-air museum (skansen) areas e.g. Houses in an open air museum in Sanok. (Fig. 4).

Naturally, it is not possible to protect the heritage of our wooden past in 100%. For this reason we need to ensure that we use all the necessary means to protect those buildings. It is also necessary to document the most valuable objects – including those which are not under protection. Such documentation should include: query archival, historical research and evidence, recognizing the chronology of historical layers of the building structure and its details as well as architectural inventory – drawings and photographs. Dendrochronological research should be made routinely, which would allow to determine the precise time of cutting the wooden elements and their incorporation into the historic structure. This study often modifies the current opinions about the age of the object – sometimes making them younger (e.g. Orthodox churches in Ulucz) at other times making them older (e.g. Orthodox church in Leżachów turned out to be 112 years older than it was thought to be). Recently it is common to use photogrammetric measurements in inventories as well as three dimensional photographic documentation 3D i.e. spherical panoramas, allowing to reproduce the style and details (360o) more precisely. It should also be complementary to make photographs from aerial view. (Fig.5).

A good cooperation between all institutions and people responsible for decisions is necessary in all conservational actions. Conservation projects should minimize the contemporary interventions in historic structures of buildings. Even though it is more expensive and technically complicated, it is worth to protect the original elements and features e.g. Through strengthening the structure and thus limiting the incorporation of new materials in the place of degraded elements. (Fig.6).

Although the process of protecting and conservation of wood has been known for a long time, undertaken actions are not always appropriate. On one hand, the causes are the shortcomings of research and repair conservation funding. On the other hand, the declining quality of qualified staff - not only the decision making officials, but as well in the design and execution of the project. The knowledge of wooden architecture has rarely been popularized and taught in secondary schools or higher education departments. The subject “Wooden Architecture” disappears from the curriculum of Architecture Departments in Poland. There also lacks to be professional associations and regular workshops regarding this matter, which takes place e.g. in Germany.[текст с сайта музея-заповедника "Кижи": http://kizhi.karelia.ru]

On the other hand, Interesting reconstruction initiatives of no longer existing wooden buildings are sporadically taking place, such as the wooden, polychromic vault of the synagogue in Gwoździec (POLIN museum in Warsaw) or the reconstruction of a synagogue in Wołpy created in Biłgoraj. These initiatives prove the fascination of wood by the successive generations. A region in which wooden architecture is common is situated on the south of Poland i.e. Podhale. Meanwhile, many historic buildings are being ruined there as well. An example of this are the shepherd’s huts at the foot of Tatra Mountains in Jurgów. Local authorities and conservation services cannot properly look after and protect the objects, which have many different owners- Jurgów villagers. (Fig. 9., Fig. 10.)

Translation – Konstancja Kusiak

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

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