The Building Conservation Directory 2023

13 C AT H E D R A L C O M M U N I C AT I O N S T H E B U I L D I N G C O N S E R VAT I O N D I R E C T O R Y 2 0 2 3 | C E L E B R AT I N G 3 0 Y E A R S P R O F E S S I O N A L S E R V I C E S 1 REINSTATEMENT OF MISSING FEATURES EVA PALACIOS T HE REINSTATEMENT of missing features is often contentious. Consider, for example, a fine cantilevered stone staircase in a Georgian house which has had its original wrought iron balustrade replaced by a Victorian one. The addition has thicker cast iron sections fixed to the side of the steps, and its visual heaviness defeats the traditional floating effect of the Georgian stone staircase. In the process of repairing the house, the removal of the stair runner reveals the fixing points of the original balusters, providing evidence to allow for the original design to be reinstated. But is this appropriate? And in a listed building would the proposal be granted listed building consent? A dilemma arises over the significance of the building: recovering the original design would be at the expense of losing part of the house’s story. Removing the Victorian balustrade would inevitably delete one of the multiple layers of history which reveal the lifetime and evolution of the building. An attempt to reinstate features belonging to a specific period runs the risk of portraying a static reality that never existed, particularly in the case of residential buildings where change could be constant due to the pressure to adapt to shifts in fashion and function. Even if architectural features from different periods might clash with the modern eye, their combination holds evidential value. Each element tells us about the story of the building through time. The balance between the loss of evidential and architectural value can only be assessed in direct relation to the context and circumstances of each building. A different outcome would result from a different case scenario. For instance, if that Victorian balustrade were irreparably damaged, or if its weight jeopardised the structural stability of the cantilevered steps, then replacement would be justifiable on grounds of safety alone. New slender wrought-iron balusters, fixed with lead to the top of the treads, could then be considered more appropriate. The reinstatement of the Georgian balustrade would recover the spatial quality originally intended and, consequently, the harmony of the central staircase. Llwyn Celyn, a unique Welsh farmhouse, was repurposed as an educational centre and holiday accommodation. Grade I listed, the building’s significance incorporated a build- A fine Georgian staircase marred by a heavy cast iron Victorian balustrade: clear evidence of the original design can be seen in the treads of each step, but restoring one would entail the loss of the other. (Photo: Eva Palacios)