By Nicholas Bogosian
I have now reached the fifth quarter of my training at the Building Preservation & Restoration Program of Belmont Technical College. That’s five out of seven. I started this series at the beginning of my training with the intent of highlighting the trades function in the preservation of our built environment and as an open scrapbook of my experiences through the duration of the training. I am happy to say that the zeal I came into the process with hasn’t wavered a bit. Now the time has come to begin seeking out internships and think more forwardly about my place in the field.
I know, like most of my peers, that I find satisfaction in making an unhealthy structure healthy again. I enjoy even more knowing why it is healthier and why it was unhealthy in the first place. This maintenance ethic may seem concrete in our minds, but I bet most of the world doesn’t view maintenance as a technical skill, a science, or an art (or even a priority). The beauty of the craftsman is not only their ability to work with their hands – truthfully, their handiwork would have no value without the intellectual understanding of the materials they are working with.
It is not enough, however, to be proficient in the historic building trades (i.e. plastering, blacksmithing, masonry, timber framing, faux painting, etc.) A modern preservationist (or conservator, or preservation technician) must take their knowledge of these highly specialized professions and view the building holistically and understand the process of deterioration. What good is a plasterer’s handiwork in repairing cracks in a wall when significant differential settlement is taking place in the building? A preservation-sensitive structural engineer would do more good.
So I suppose the conservationist shares in the same delight of the chemist, in knowing something at its atomic and molecular level – to know something through and through.