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PgDip Arch.Conservation Coursework

Part 2 Dissertation 2003
Martin Back
University of Plymouth | UK
Why do we wish to conserve certain buildings and sites, and not others? What are we trying to achieve when we embark on the care of a historic building or environment? And what precisely are our motives in ‘preserving’ or ‘conserving’ rather than maintaining ? These and many other similar fundamental questions concerning the conservation of our heritage, persist. They invite a range of answers, which, to some extent will be influenced by legislative, cultural, social, environmental and economic factors prevailing at any given time. A growing awareness in the value of our ‘built environment and landscape’ and in preserving it, together with the need to see evidence of the past and the underlying idea of custodianship – that we are responsible to future generations and should pass on those riches that we have inherited – only just begin to answer some of these questions.

The programme of study has included extensive research and examination of current conservation philosophies, statutory and regulatory frameworks and case studies that have included Listed and Ecclesiastical buildings and sites. Practical sessions involving the [small scale] construction and repair of historic fabrics have also been carried out.

The specific topics covered making up the Dissertation submission are : -
§Historical Building Evaluation
§Attitudes and Philosophies of Conservation
§Quinquennial Inspections of Ecclesiastical Buildings
§Condition Survey and Repair Specification – a case study
§Framework of Conservation : Statutory and Local Policy – a case study
§Conservation and Repair of Earth Buildings

The philosophy advocated is that of understanding the cultural significance of a building or place before developing a statement of significance for it. This should assist in preparing a clear diagnosis and appraisal of what needs to be done and any solutions tested against the philosophy adopted. It is important to remember that a philosophy can only provide a ‘guiding light’ and not instant prescriptions . However, we must also be aware of the uncertainty of private judgment – what may be to us something without merit – may well prove to posterity, who can view it in perspective, of considerable value.

Martin Back

Plymouth University School of Architecture Graduate Diploma dissertation comprises the coursework from one of three taught two year postgraduate progammes. Martin Back`s work constitutes his submission for PgDip. Architectural Conservation. The programme`s six modules are attended also by practicing architects and other professionals from the construction industry and can lead to professional accreditation in conservation.

The modules` content challenges the students understanding of the nature of change in order that they may be able to design and defend appropriate interventions into historic fabric from modest repair to major new building in historic places.Often assignments are designed to give the students the experience of the preparation of the documents expected by the current industry eg.historic building evaluation,condition survey and repairs specification.

Assessment of the modules is undertaken by academic staff and practicing professionals. There was unanimous agreement that Martin`s work is exemplary. Collectively his submissions have been the result of extensive research from a wide range of sources; careful observation, analysis and understanding of casestudies; with critical discussion communicated in a well considered accessible manner supported by appropriate illustrations. In addition Martin has contributed to seminars and workshops related to conservation. Overall Martin`s performance has been consistent at a high level.

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