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Two Types Of Building Conservation

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Conservation can be taken to several extents. It can be either done in a way to get a building to its original state or can be done in such a way to preserve a building from deteriorating further. Over the past years new theories of conservation have arose making the subject of conservation complex. Thus in the following essay I shall be tackling two recent intervention done in conjunction to the theories of conservation, namely; Cesare Brandi and the Burra charters.

The Castle of Matrera

The Castle of Matrera over the last few years has created a number of debates between the traditionalists and modernists. The castle dates back to the 9th Century and it was declared a national monument and an example of Heritage Cultural interest. It was built as a defence tower for the most advanced city of the Cora de Ronda. Later on, in the 13th Century, it was conquered by San Ferdinand, who rebuilt it. Later on, in the 14th Century, it was taken back over by the Muslims.

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A restoration project, led by architect Carlos Quevado was launched in 2010 which took 5 years to finally preserve this tower. The restoration process consisted from rebuilding the collapsed parts and freeze time. Sections of the tower where rebuild with lime plaster which is similar to samples that where collected from site which looked like plain white blocks which defined the original shape of the tower to give the viewers a sense of size and look the tower previously had rather to replicate the original stonework and at the same time create a distinction between old and new. Quevado discusses that in his restoration that he wanted to “recover the volume, texture, and tonality that the tower originally had.” (Franco, 2016) (Jones, 2016) (El Pais, 2016)

Although the restoration process was heavily criticised it was lauded in the Architecture + preservation category at the A+ Awards. (Howarth, 2016)

The Vilharigues Tower

Another example of a building which achieved a whole new look after a full restoration was that of the Vilharigues tower. The Vilharigues tower or more commonly known as the Vilharigues castle is located in Portugal. It stands in northwest slope of the Caramulo Mountain which made it a great place to look down at the nearby villages. It was built in the late 13th Century and from the presence of battlements which denote the importance and prestige of their masters it was concluded that royals used to live there. In 1944, the ruins of Vilharigues castle was classified as property of the state. During the second half of the twentieth century the castle deconstructed and most of the stones were used in the Chapel of Santo Amaro. Up until 2006, only two walls remained standing and a project was launched to recover the much important castle. (Cruz, 2019)

In 2006, a project was announced for the restoration of this tower which was designed by architect Renato Rebelo. Renato took a different approach in the restoration of this tower, where he added a wooden and iron structure and enclosed it with glass. Thus with this method he made a solid comparison from that of the old structure and that of the new. The inside was then divided into three floors; the first floor housed an exhibition, the second related to the local history linked to the parish and the third served as a mini-library. (Cruz, 2019) (Metrera Castle in Spain and the Vilharigues Tower in Portugal, 2016)


The Burra charters and Cesare Brandi’s approach to the theory of conservation is very different. In the case of Brandi, we can summarize his thoughts in four points; the unacceptability of creative conservation, the imperative of preservation of the patina, the complete reversibility of any conservation work and to proceed always case by case. On the other hand the Burra charter has a softer approach to restoration in its principles which state; There are places worth keeping because they enrich our lives – by helping us understand the past; by contributing to the richness of the present environment; and because we expect them to be of value to future generations, The cultural significance of a place is embodied in its physical material (fabric), its setting and its contents; in its use; in the associated documents; and in its meaning to people through their use and associations with the place, The cultural significance of a place, and other issues affecting its future, are best understood by a process of collecting and analysing information before making decisions, and keeping accurate records about decisions and changes to the place helps in its care, management and interpretation. (Council) (Barassi, 2009)


With both theories understood, we can now understand better each conservation method used in both cases. When looking at the restored Matrera Castle one could easily realise that a new structural skeleton is achieved from the lime plaster used. Carlos Quevado decided in his designs not to falsify materials and not rebuild the castle to the look it originally had with the materials present but rather to create a clear distinction from what is newly done and what remains of the original castle but on the other hand is not reversable. The lime plaster is attached directly to the pre existing walls making it impossible to remove without damaging further the original walls. The limestone that collapsed over time was reused for the buttresses which support the building but also retain some of the original material while the edges of the building where geometrically reformed to mark its original volume. In this way, next generations can go visit the Matrera tower and enjoy the volumetric aesthetical values and its historic value within context of its size and location.


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