What Do The Louvre and Fast Food Have in Common?

Adventures in Preservation:

Interesting perspective Preservation Journey readers might enjoy..

Originally posted on The Secret Knowledge of Spaces:

Burger King Seattle Your local fast food chain (Seattle).

Everything has its history, including the roofline of your closest fast food restaurant. Fast food chain architecture seems to be streamlining now, cutting out decoration until nothing but minimalist blocks remain; walls transition seamlessly to windows, and corners are crisp and unadorned. Through the latter half of the twentieth century, however, fast-food joints followed a Neoeclectic craze that Louis Napoleon couldn’t have dreamed of: a sleek, metal, parred-down adaptation of the French mansard roof. Order a fast-food roof and you’ll get it hot and ready-to-go: it may be prepackaged and there may only be three varieties, but culture and history are the ketchup packages that come with your meal whether you request them or not.

Morrill Hall UNR Morrill Hall, courtesy of UNR.

The mansard roof was popularized during Louis Napoleon’s reign, 1852-1870.  The addition to the Louvre during this period was built with an elaborate mansard roof. The ornate apartment buildings along Paris’s grand…

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The Three Rs of Preservation

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Reading, writing, ‘rithmetic.

For some reason, Rs come in threes. In historic preservation, those three Rs are sometimes said to be renovation, restoration, and rehabilitation. So for this upcoming Earth Day, we thought we’d take a look at historic preservation’s answer to the three Rs.


To start off, renovation is probably the most well known of the terms. It means simply making a structure usable again, without taking its history into design consideration. Or it can mean updating a structure–taking out that asbestos insulation or rewiring to meet new codes.

Restoration, on the other hand, refers to making a structure look as it did at a certain specific point in time. Accuracy in form, function, features, and character are all vital to a true restoration project. Materials used on the project should reflect those used during the initial construction or period to which the building it being restored, and any features that do not date from that period should be removed.

The third R, rehabilitation, is somewhere in between. In a rehab, the rules aren’t as strict as in a renovation, but the final product sticks more closely to the original structure than it does in a renovation. Or, in the words of the National Park Service, “Rehabilitation acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property’s historic character.”

Realtor Magazine has another way of thinking about it. Renovation is seeing all the possibilities, remodeling to fit exactly what the owner wants and nothing more. Restoration is “turning back the clock.” Rehabilitation projects involve redefining the function of a structure, often to restore the exterior while renovating the interior.

To learn more about the Rs, check out the NPS guide to historic preservation treatments or the National Trust’s list of 10 common preservation terms. To read about historic preservation and sustainability, take a look at our post “The Ultimate Recycling Project” from Earth Day 2014!

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Countdown to Spring: Five Awe-Inspiring Gardens

Back at the beginning of February, groundhogs everywhere saw their shadows and predicted six more weeks of winter. When it seems like winter will never end and the snow will never melt, there is nothing that sounds better than just being able to sit outside in the sun without freezing. In my opinion, at least.

Should you too be yearning for warmth and counting down the days until spring, here is a list of five heritage sites with fantastic gardensone for each week left until the spring equinox!

(Why gardens on a blog about historic preservation? The landscape surrounding a site is just as significant to a sense of place as the building itself!)

1. Jichang Garden in Wuxi City, China. A garden has been on the site of the Jichang Garden since the early 1500s. Designed in the 1600s, Jichang exemplifies the classical Chinese garden. Unlike most Western gardens, rock formations and water play just as important a role as plants and decorative buildings. Features include several ponds, rockeries, bridges, and a pavilion.

The Jichang Garden. Photo: Wikipedia

2. Schönbrunn Palace Gardens in Vienna, Austria. These Baroque gardens surround the Habsburg imperial summer palace in Vienna. The earliest designs for the gardens date from 1695, but were expanded in the following centuries. Today, a hedge maze, zoo, gloriette, orangerie, and Japanese garden are just some of the features of the palace grounds.

The Great Parterre at Schönbrunn. Photo: Hallie Borstel

The Great Parterre at Schönbrunn. Photo: Hallie Borstel

3. The Palacio de Generalife in Granada, Spain. As this 14th century summer palace was intended as a “palace of rest” for the Nasrid Emirs, it is no wonder that it contains a variety of gardens. Courtyard gardens, vegetable gardens, and tree-lined promenades complement the Moorish vernacular architecture.

A courtyard garden at the Generalife. Photo: Alhambra de Granada on Flickr

4. The Flower Garden at Kroměříž, Czech Republic. Dating from the 1670s, this garden was designed by architect Giovanni Pietro Tencalla, straddling the Italian Renaissance and French Baroque styles. The gardens contain labyrinthine hedges, a colonnade, greenhouses, and a central pavilion alongside highly decorative flower beds and sculptures.

The flower garden at Kroměříž. Photo: UNESCO

5. Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia. Any historic preservationist will know the ups and downs of Portland cement, so we had to include these spectacular gardens designed by Jennie Butchart, wife of Portland cement’s first manufacturer. The grounds house a concert lawn and several distinctive gardens, including the Sunken Garden built on the site of the former limestone quarry.

The Sunken Garden in spring. Photo: Butchart Gardens

Still not warm? Check out National Geographic’s Top 10 list for gardens and do a little more daydreaming.

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A Shotgun House Primer

The folks at the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans have put together a concise guide to shotgun houses.

Shotgun house on Rampart Street in New Orleans' Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.

Shotgun house on Rampart Street in New Orleans’ Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Wikicommons image.

The primer touches on the origins of the vernacular form and descibes the variations found in the region and in New Orleans in particular. Shotgun houses are the most common housing types in many of that city’s historic neighbourhoods.

If you’re a fan of shotgun houses, AiP has a shotgun house preservation project in the works in Shreveport, Louisiana. Let us know if you’d like project updates or to learn when volunteers will be needed to pitch in at this hands-on building conservation project.

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An Intro to Intangible Cultural Heritage

What do askiya (the Uzbek art of wit), the making of lavash bread, washi (the Japanese art of hand-making paper), and the tchopa sacrificial dance all have in common?

They were all added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014.

How about the Isukuti dance of the Isukha and Idakho communities of Western Kenya, the male-child cleansing ceremony of the Lango of central northern Uganda, and the Mapoyo oral tradition and its symbolic reference points within their ancestral territory?

If you said they were all added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2014, you’d be right.

If you didn’t know that, you might now be asking, “What exactly is intangible cultural heritage?”

The idea of tangible cultural heritage is a pretty easy one to grasp—we can see things like buildings and handicrafts, and thus it is fairly easy to figure how to preserve them or to at least conceptualize their preservation. But things that can’t be touched, like a folk dance or a song…how do we preserve those?

According to UNESCO, intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is traditional, contemporary, and living all at the same time; inclusive; representative; and community-based.

Things that qualify as ICH are usually passed on through oral tradition, but are becoming increasingly threatened by globalization. On the one hand, globalization breaks down cultural barriers and decreases cultural diversity. On the other hand, globalization and the spread of technology undermine the importance of oral tradition (though they can also be used to help preserve it).

UNESCO was not the first to recognize the need to pay more attention to the preservation of ICH—that award went to Japan in 1950. “Living National Treasures” or Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties are certified by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. There are sixteen categories at present, all falling into the broad categories of performing arts or crafts.

Bamboo basket woven by living treasure Fujinuma Noboru. Photo: Art Institute of Chicago

How does this relate to historic preservation? Not only traditional practices like spiritual rituals, dances, or crafts are at risk for being forgotten, so are traditional forms of building.

One current AiP project directly addresses this question: how do we preserve buildings when the traditional forms of building have been forgotten? In conjunction with Volunteer South America, AiP jammers are volunteering in Ecuador to document, preserve, and restore examples of vernacular architecture. By working with communities, AiP hope to reignite an interest in and an understanding of the importance of the built cultural heritage. Particularly in small towns in Ecuador, restoring traditional buildings could greatly increase economic development opportunities through tourism.

Interested in getting your hands on some forgotten intangible cultural heritage like traditional Ecuadorian building techniques? AiP will be in Ecuador in August 2015, so mark your calendars!

You can read more about the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage convention on their website or in this brochure.

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Monastery Makeovers

One challenge historic preservationists and architects face is that of adaptive reuse–taking a structure built for one specific purpose and giving it a new use. This process is an important part of historic preservation and of green building, but sometimes the original structure presents more of a problem because of the way the original purpose and function dictated the built environment. While it’s relatively common practice to convert unused school buildings into apartments, what do you do with, say, an empty monastery?

Monasteries dominated many aspects of life in other parts of the world for centuries. While monasteries have no widespread uniform appearance, there are trends depending on region and religion.

Imagine you are on a train heading through the scenic Traunviertel in Upper Austria. As you pass gentle mountains and picturesque villages, a large group of Baroque buildings comes into view. Context clues suggest some sort of church complex…but then you see the barbed wire fence and lots of security cameras.

Garsten Prison. Photo: justiz.gov.at

Don’t let the Baroque architectural features and colorful buildings throw you–you’ve just passed the Justizanstalt Garsten, or the Garsten Prison, a former Benedictine monastery. The 17th-century building complex was in use as a monastery until 1787, and was converted into a prison in 1851. Now that is thinking outside the box.

Or what about the Kruisherenhotel in Maastricht, the Netherlands? The 14th century Gothic building complex was once a monastery for the Catholic order of the Brethren of the Cross, and is now a designer hotel.

Kruisherenhotel. Photo: hotels.com

Of course, not all monasteries that fall out of use go through radical changes. Monasteries were often production centers for wine and beer. Some are now secular wineries and breweries, like Domaine Weinbach in France, or the Romanesque Kloster Eberbach in Germany, which has been at different times a monastery, lunatic asylum, prison, and winery.

Aerial view, Kloster Eberbach. Photo: kloster-eberbach.de

Monasteries can certainly be restored without being converted, as well. Because of their important role in world history, a monastery preserved or restored simply as that can be an extremely meaningful structure. While monasteries can be striking examples of Romanesque, Gothic, or Baroque architecture, they can also be testaments to local heritage and vernacular architecture!

In 2015, AiP is partnering with Volunteer South America to do repairs on traditional stone buildings in the village of San Andrés, Ecuador, including a 17th-century Franciscan convent. You can read more about the project and register to participate here!

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The White Mill Rural Heritage Centre

Thomas Stanley. The name might call to mind many things for British history buffsstepfather of King Henry VII, accessory to the murder of Edward V and Prince Richard, 1st Earl of Derby. But if you know your history of milling in Kent, England, it might call to mind another Thomas Stanley.

This Thomas Stanley was by no means the first miller at the White Mill, the last surviving windmill in Sandwich, but he was the first of the Stanleys to run it. Stanley purchased the mill in 1878, and his family operated it until the 1950s. The mill had been built in 1760, with several outbuildings added later. The mill is no longer in use and is now part of the White Mill Rural Heritage Centre.

Thomas Stanley. Photo: millsarchive.org

Open to visitors are outbuildings such as the miller’s office and cottage, granary, engine house, forge, and workshops. And, of course, the windmill itself. The windmill is an octagonal four-sailed smock mill, so-called because the shape is thought to resemble that of a person wearing a smock. Inside, three millstones used to grind corn. Much of the machinery on display today is original.


The White Mill. Photo: The White Mill Rural Heritage Centre.

The heritage center is run completely by volunteers. From acting as docents to running the gift shop to managing finances to marketing, every aspect of the operation relies on volunteer hours. Restoration work, too, relies on the efforts of volunteers. The windmill was restored between 1960 and 1981, the sails between 2012 and 2014, and the Engine House in 1995.

The White Mill is actively recruiting volunteers who are interested in helping with administrative tasks, collections management, restoration projects, and other tasks. Visit www.whitemillheritagecentre.org.uk to learn more about the museum, or check them out on Twitter!

Volunteer John Hewett at work on the granary. Photo: White Mill Rural Heritage Centre.

Volunteer John Hewett at work on the granary. Photo: White Mill Rural Heritage Centre.


The White Mill is one of many historic sites around the world managed and operated by volunteers. On the occasion of International Volunteer Day (December 5), Adventures in Preservation salutes, and thanks, all of them.

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