Conservation Strategies

/ Justin Fenton / Conservation

The processes we use to navigate the journey through our conservation projects are undergoing a transformation. There seem to be two broad fronts of change. The first is the need for increased methodological rigour paralleling similar processes such as Building Information Management systems (BIM for short) being adopted in the construction of buildings. The second and distinctive to conservation projects, is management of the inherent requirement for supporting explanations, the data of of the building under consideration, its origins, making, and evolution.

The backcloth for these changes is simply our ever growing digital capacity. We are of course aware of contemporary developments in building modelling which encapsulate new building envelopes. Of help to us in the conservation sector is the emergence of embryonic and pioneering digitisation such as that by the Digital Design Studio of Glasgow School of Art, which enables the mirroring of existing fabric in similar digital model formats, but to an immense level of detail.

But what about the supporting explanatory information management? Historically conservation projects - documenting, archeology, surveying, researching, chronology, assessment, was a series of distinct compartmentalised activities, more often than not summarised in volumes of reports and drawings on the library shelf.

The shelf has changed into this digital store, the huge advantage is that the access to and the capacity to absorb information is eased. No longer is there the need to lift heavy dusty volumes off the shelf (irrespective of how satisfying it is) and trying to connect knowledge in different formats, but now we are enabled to scan across large amounts of information with remarkable speed. The challenge is three fold. Digitisation of the records, managing the storage and then the marrying of that potentially vast explanatory documentation with the digital drawn information such that the information is effortlessly connected.

We know from the extant building what was done. What emerges is a new visible framework to begin to help us understand why and how it emerged. It enables all decisions to be evidence based but at the same time it facilitates the ability to leave a legacy record of the interpretations and decisions that are taken in the conservation process, not on a shelf but embedded into the management building tool. In so many fields of our lives this twin track of reality and knowledge of that reality, is growing exponentially, in fields such as health and the understanding of the body, in transportation and the progress towards autonomous movement and now in our buildings and the locking in of the knowledge of its making and use.