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In my experience, there is a rule of thumb for visual art restoration that the object should be returned to the "appearance after it left the artist's purview, not just "leaving the artists' easel" but, in many cases, object installation. Objects sometimes radically changed with conservation. (Remember the schism in the art history world created by the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel: accepted facts (read dogma) about Michelangelo were challenged with clear new evidence and some people wouldn't/couldn't rethink.)
So thinking about architecture seems to be different.
First: do we agree that the rule of thumb for an architectural object is to determine a specific point in the lifetime of the structure?
If anyone comments on this premise and we can concur on a general rule for architecture, I have some additional discussion points.
Barnsdall has been incredibly difficult for most (though not me) because over the past 83 years of Los Angeles City ownership, it has gone through Hell and back. Many of the alterations are not even up for discussion; the guest bedrooms and baths, for instance, will never be restored, because the gallery that replaced them is functional and was designed by Lloyd Wright. The gaping maw that connects the gallery to the pergola, and thereby ruins not only the pergola, but the garden court, is also useful, and will not be closed. Even though there is evidence that the skylight in the library was installed (a 1923 letter talked about the choice of fabric for a skylight curtain), since it cannot be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt," it will not be rebuilt, even though the room is uncomfortably dark without it. I could go on, inch by inch, over the entire house, but suffice it to say, in some cases political forces, lack of money and people in charge with suspect credentials make true restoration difficult to impossible. (I have anger issues with Barnsdall!)
One issue came up with DD Martin: Should the second floor windows Isabel had moved out toward the eave to bring in extra light be left where they were, or should they be returned to where FLW meant them to be? I argued for the latter, and that view prevailed; Jack Quinan thought Isabel's alteration should be honored. My reasoning was that all who visit the Martin House, no matter how complete the docents' information was, would go away assuming that everything they saw was FLW's work. Most of FLW's clients are known today because they were his clients. It may sound harsh, but without FLW, no one would know the name Isabel Martin. When a house stops serving as a home, and becomes a house museum, it should be the architect's work that should take precedence.
Another bit of minor restoration concerning the Reisley House: There is a built-in shelf of modest dimensions and minor significance which had suffered some problems with the finish after decades of use. Ronny wanted to strip the wood and refinish it. Roland and their wood conservator, Tom Gentle, argued that the original finish should be left in place, and just touched up. Who should have won that argument, in your opinion?
Restoring a public building is hard enough, what with a panel of camels trying to give birth to a horse, but restoring a house that is lived in, considering that architecture is more than art, is nigh impossible. There will probably never be a restoration that is approved by everyone.
In my view, when the question of which is the factor of greater importance, the designer's intent or the material remains of the subject property, then decisions about what to do will become more self-evident -- including (in some if not in all cases) the choice of which moment in time to restore to. I would argue, all other things being equal (which they cannot be -- it's apples to oranges), that the designer's intent should carry the day. Those subject to sentiment rather than aesthetics (is that a legitimate distinction ?) may argue otherwise.
In the case of a Reisley shelf, preserving a damaged finish, one with no originally-intended effect (as in staining or tinting) on the color of the underlying wood, seems like overkill. Should we preserve dust that fell on the surface of the shelf over the years, too ? Damage is damage -- its inclusion in a list of "original fabric and condition" seems erroneous to me.
Some buildings are restored (caught in limbo at a significant past date) to a point that the defies the original materials, which may have been explorative but proved unsuccessful. The visual & tactile effect for the year of significance may, in fact, misrepresent the true material of the structure.
Returning to Thom Gentle and Mr. Reisley's defense of the original finish - that was conservation not restoration: an honest representation of the craft, materials and techniques of the building. Wood requires care. SDR, Thom was probably simply saying preserve the French polish finish that must be renewed regularly and don't eradicate the stain patina of use. Doubtful it was damage.
SDR wrote:I would argue, all other things being equal..... that the designer's intent should carry the day.
It's a shame that the folks over at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission didn't think the "designer's intent should carry the day" at the Guggenheim re the choice of exterior color. I think the Gugg would look great in Wright's chosen color (or today's closest approximation, that is).
Imagine a house is completed as drawn, and at a later date, the client makes some changes on his own which the architect approves of, and there is documentation to support this as fact. Other alterations are made at the same time, of which the architect voices disapproval.pharding wrote:Professionally restored buildings are taken back to a designated year of significance.
Would there then be two (or more...) designated dates of significance, instead of one, to which point in time the structure should be restored? Shouldn't the approved changes be kept, and the alterations which met disapproval by the architect removed, and then restored to the condition at the original date of completion?
My point would be this: It seems simplistic (and possibly incorrect?) that in every case there is only one date which may be used as a point of reference for a restoration...
A flaw is corrected by a sensitive client during the lifetime of the architect. The appreciative architect puts his ego behind him, and the alteration is approved. Couldn't we easily justify the preservation of an intelligent idea from an owner/resident if the architect in question also does?
Wouldn't the nature of the relationship between architect and client also be of importance?
Another scenario: The owner is an important artist and paints a mural, or is a woodworker and builds a site specific piece of cabinetry. If the artist was a friend of the architect, wouldn't it be unthinkable to remove the piece, even if some would question whether it was the architect's original intention to have an artwork as part of the house?
Of course, it becomes even more complicated if the work is done after the death of the architect, or if it would be understood that the architect would not appreciate the artists work...
I do agree with some restoration when possible. The settle by the fireplace in the Living Room at the Robie House which had been removed many years ago, is now or will be re-built. This missing piece will totally affect how you understand the space. The sequencing of enclosed area as you enter the room to the larger area of the living room is so important to Wright's interior achitecture. That is a neccessary part of the architectural preservation.
(Just returned from watching "Infinite Space" -- the excellent Lautner film -- at my local library.)