Wednesday August 1, 2012
Conservation no simple matter
THOSE trying to conserve heri-tage buildings properly must be aware of making common mistakes which can spoil the structure of the buildings.
Certain modifications often do more harm than good, said Dr Donald Ellsmore, the Austra- lasia Chapter convenor of the Association for Preservation Tech-nology International.
Citing air-conditioning, he points out that such additions had an impact on moisture movement, which could then affect parts of the structure.
He said these issues stemmed from a lack of basic understanding as well as the tendency to turn to technology as a quick fix for problems.
“It is like treating a sickness with drugs, but not understanding what is actually wrong.
“You address only the symptoms, but not the cause. This may make you feel better but you never get well.
“We need to help people re-learn how a building functions, what the design elements are, and how best to care for them,” said Dr Ellsmore who is also an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne.
Dr Ellsmore, together with University of Hong Kong Conserva-tion Laboratory manager Gesa Schwantes and local heritage architect and conservationist Laurence Loh, will be speaking at a George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) seminar in Penang this Saturday.
Titled ‘Materials and Processes in the Conservation of Heritage Buildings’, it will be held at the Wawasan Open University starting 9am, and is open free to the public.
GTWHI education and outreach manager Sunitha Janamohanan said the seminar sought to help increase basic understanding of the conservation process, and what it means in practice.
With heritage buildings in George Town being bought, sold and restored at an ever-increasing pace since the Unesco inscription, her organisation believes it is imperative that people have good knowledge of conservation.
Dr Ellsmore cautioned that there were many risks that came with a Unesco listing.
These include the arrival of more tourists and the modification of structures to cater to the tourism industry can strip heritage buildings of their original character and purpose.
“It is important that the people of George Town move slowly in capitalising on these opportunities.
“They need to ensure that decisions are grounded in community support and rational thinking.
“Heritage should never be ex-ploited, as it is owned by the local community.
“There is nothing like George Town elsewhere in the world,” he said in an interview at the GTWHI office.
Schwantes added that the multi-cultural make-up of Penang’s community had resulted in diverse architectural influences that make the city unique, and better understanding of these elements would go a long way towards keeping Penang’s charm.
“When making any changes or repairs, you always want to use materials that are similar to the original and will not have an adverse impact on the overall structure.
“The climate and high humidity creates lots of problems for building owners, so it is important that remedial works are carried out correctly,” she said.
To register for the seminar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 04-2616606.