The conservation challenge facing Ireland's industrial heritage
Paul McMahon provides an insight into conservation principles and training in Ireland, with a particular focus on the role of the Dublin Principles in securing the future of Ireland’s industrial heritage.
|Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin (Photo: iStock.com/Leonid Andronov)|
The charters and conservation principles which the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has produced since its inception in 1965 are recognised throughout the world as best-practice guidelines. Most importantly, they can play an influential role in the adoption of state cultural protection policies.
The ICOMOS Ireland review of conservation education and training (Sustaining our Built Environment, 2009) noted the absence of a real profile for the industrial heritage sector within the ICOMOS 1993 guidelines. In response to the current ICCROM/ICOMOS International Training Committee (ICOMOS CIF) capacity-building agenda and the expanded definition of the cultural heritage, ICOMOS Ireland in association with the Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland (IHAI) established an Industrial Heritage National Scientific Committee (IHNSC) to address the issues raised.
The IHNSC promoted the adoption by ICOMOS of The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage’s (TICCIH) Nizhny Tagil Charter for the Industrial Heritage. Following an ICOMOS Advisory Committee meeting in Ireland, the Dublin Principles (Joint ICOMOS-TICCIH Principles for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage Sites, Structures, Areas and Landscapes) were ratified in 2011. ICOMOS Ireland and the IHAI have been actively engaged in promoting them. They have particularly targeted their adoption by government, local authorities and other statutory institutions as they provide a focussed framework for the strategic and operational management of our industrial heritage.
Following a number of seminars and workshops, the IHNSC, in consultation with the IHAI, proposed actions for capacity building within the heritage sector. In September 2015, adopting the COTAC ‘Understanding Conservation’ training model (see www.understandingconservation.org for details), the IHAI organised and delivered an introductory module on industrial heritage, which focussed particularly on the needs of professionals working in the built heritage environment. The course was run in partnership with ICOMOS Ireland, and was recognised as continuing professional development (CPD) by the professional institutes (the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, Engineers Ireland, the Irish Planning Institute, and the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland). The event proved very successful, with more than 60 delegates attending from the public, private and community sectors.
Following feedback from the participants, in October 2016 a second CPD module was organised by the IHAI in partnership with ICOMOS Ireland, titled Ireland’s Industrial Heritage: The Conservation Challenge. The event focussed on the challenges facing the heritage sector in the conservation of historic waterways and infrastructure. The projects selected were of local, national and international significance.
Lisa Edden, conservation engineer, dealt with site exploration challenges associated with the restoration of weirs, sluices and millponds and their subsequent management as recreation features; Susan Roundtree, conservation architect, featured Dublin City Council’s adaptive reuse of a former pumping station site for social housing; and Dr Miles Oglethorpe, Historic Environment Scotland, introduced delegates to the considerable challenge of managing the Forth Bridge UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With reference to the Dublin Principles, it is appropriate to highlight another contribution to the event: the materials conservation case study presented by Michael Phillips, Dublin City Engineer, which featured the conservation of the iconic Ha’penny Bridge on the River Liffey (summarised in the box below).
The individual presentations at Ireland’s Industrial Heritage: The Conservation Challenge were followed by a structured discussion, chaired by Sir Neil Cossons, on the application of the Dublin Principles as a common standard for industrial heritage conservation.
Perhaps the best way to conclude this short article is by giving an example of how the initiatives taken by ICOMOS Ireland and the IHAI are working within the government, local planning authorities and statutory and voluntary bodies and are playing a role in the conservation of Ireland’s industrial heritage.
Waterways Ireland is an all-island statutory body with responsibility for Ireland’s historic inland navigation systems. It participated in both of the industrial heritage modules organised by the IHAI and ICOMOS. It has now produced a heritage plan for 2016–2020 which, very significantly, references the guidance provided by the Dublin Principles in achieving its aims, objectives, and actions.
- To collate and archive waterways heritage information and develop a heritage inventory and directory.
- To identify gaps in research and develop an action plan to address these gaps
- To pilot a waterways oral history project.
- To provide targeted traditional skills training for staff.
- To provide an education programme for staff on all aspects of waterways heritage including built, natural, archaeological and historic navigational infrastructure.
- To provide information and training for staff, contractors and community groups to include heritage legislation and best practice.
- To develop conservation programmes on selected heritage sites/hubs to be carried out according to principles of best practice and publish the proceedings and results.
The historic industrial landscape is often perceived as a dangerous, toxic and obsolescent environment. International conservation case studies, however, have demonstrated that sites can be maintained as significant historical and intangible resources. They can be adapted as tools for regeneration, offering an opportunity to reinforce community identity while creating commercial opportunities.
Conserving Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin. The bridge was named the Wellington Bridge when it opened in May 1816. Associated with the Coalbrookdale Works of Shropshire, it was the first cast-iron bridge to cross the river. It was built as a toll bridge, hence the colloquial name ‘Ha’penny’. At the time, the development was controversial and the City Fathers decided that if the citizens found it to be objectionable within its first year of operation it was to be removed at no cost to the city.
In 2001 the number of pedestrians using the bridge on a daily basis was 27,000. The original design did not meet modern safety and accessibility standards. Due to its cultural significance it was agreed that alteration of the original cast-iron design would not be appropriate. The council agreed to construct a temporary low-level pedestrian bridge nearby which would provide accessibility, relieve footfall and not detract from the visual amenity of the historic bridge.
A detailed structural survey of the Ha’penny Bridge indicated that while the three original arched ribs were in sound condition there was evidence of decay in the deck superstructure and railings. In accordance with conservation best practice, the structure was carefully and systematically dismantled. Following laboratory analysis, a repair schedule and historic paint specification were prepared. Michael Phillips stressed that the project required focussed project management to meet the continuous unfolding conservation demands and the inputs from a multidisciplinary team. The project was completed in 12 months and a temporary pedestrian Bailey bridge was installed during the construction.
Mott McDonald EPO Ltd was appointed to carry out the structural assessments and to prepare contract documents. Irishenco Construction Ltd was the main contractor. From an industrial heritage perspective it is notable that Harland and Wolff Ltd of Belfast (famous for building the ships of the White Star Line) was the steel subcontractor. Conservation specialists included architect Paul Arnold and archaeologist Frank Myles.
This article originally appeared in IHBC's 2017 Yearbook. It was written by Paul McMahon MRIAI, a COTAC trustee, president of ICOMOS Ireland’s Education and Training National Scientific Committee and director of the Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland.
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Conservation and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.
- Continuing professional development.
- Heritage perspectives on infrastructure.
- Heritage protection in Ireland.
- IHBC articles.
- Ireland's climate change sectoral adaptation plan.
- The conservation of historic transport infrastructure.
- The development of Irish building conservation.
- The Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
On Læsø, houses are thatched with thick, heavy bundles of silvery seaweed that have the potential to be a contemporary building material around the world.
For the first time in its history, England’s largest festival of heritage and culture will feature online events as well as in-person activities. Heritage Open Days (HODs) returns in September, thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) shows the scale of the ‘missed opportunity’ if we continue to separate heritage policymaking and economic policymaking.
The resource format has proved to be a successful way of providing guidance for local authorities on crucial policy topics.
Insight into the smart ways to design building services to ensure they perform as designed without being over-engineered
Historic England (HE) has awarded £250,000 towards the restoration of the Union Chain Bridge, built in 1820, spanning the River Tweed near Berwick.
One of Ireland’s most distinguished architectural historians explores the differences between ‘restoration’ and ‘repair’ and Conservation ethics in issue 163 of CONTEXT.
Architects say buildings should be protected – to fight climate change, reports the BBC on recent evidence given to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).
It includes articles on Rethinking Retrofit to not waste carbon and not damage buildings, Assessing Moisture in porous building materials, conserving the Burns Monument using lime grout and injection mortars, Curated Decay, and more.
Welsh company The Environment Study Centre (ESC) has released a new online course for professionals seeking a qualification in dealing with the retrofitting of older and traditional buildings.