Conservation and heritage experts from academia, government, local government and the private sector will hear about the urgent need to improve the skills needed to conserve and restore Ireland’s historic buildings at a daylong conference in Boston, County Clare, on Wednesday September 6th.
The event is being hosted by Burren-based Irish Natural Stone (INStone), the company responsible for delivering the Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City, the restoration of the Four Courts in Dublin, St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford, St. John’s Cathedral in Limerick, the O’Connell Monument in Ennis, the Irish Cultural and Learning Foundation in Phoenix (USA) and Hope House in Bath (UK).
The inaugural National INStone Symposium will feature keynote addresses from a range of experts, including Dr. Patrick Wyse Jackson, Associate Professor of Geology and Curator of the Geological Museum at Trinity College Dublin (TCD); Barry O’Reilly of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage; Hugh Kavanagh, coordinator of the All-Ireland Heritage Skills Programme for the Prince’s Foundation; Dr. John Treacy of Clare County Council; and Alan Micklethwaite, a renowned stone carver with many years of experience in the conservation of historic monuments and sculpture.
Organiser Frank McCormack, Founder and Director of Irish Natural Stone, said a key focus of next week’s conference will be to highlight the urgent need to educate public bodies about bringing vernacular buildings and derelict housing back into use in “a proper and correct manner with sensitivity towards their heritage aspect, using natural materials.”
“All stakeholders involved in the preservation of our Built Heritage need to know and understand about what natural materials should be used and their appropriate application whilst ensuring best conservation practice is adhered to and achieved. With the need to not only preserve our Built Heritage, but also upgrade our building stock to modern day comfort levels, we need to understand traditional building methods, and how we can incorporate suitable modern materials and achieve the required energy efficiency rating in the building,” he explained. “To achieve this, a standardised national quality rating and assessment process should be introduced so that local authority and public bodies can better understand the process of properly conserving and restoring old buildings, from the methods of construction adopted to the appropriately specified materials.”
Mr. McCormack, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) who has more than 50 years’ experience working as a stone mason in the United States and across Europe, said that traditional skills once commonly deployed in the conservation of old buildings were being lost and that intervention at national level would be required to ensure that the heritage value of Ireland’s vernacular properties is not undermined.
He pointed to the need for a significant increase in the resources available under various government-funded schemes to refurbish Ireland’s old buildings.
“Schemes such as the Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS), Historic Structures Fund (HSF), the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant and GLAS Traditional Farm Buildings Grants Scheme are very much welcomed, but a substantial increase in the support provided at local government level in conjunction with the training of those engaged in restoration and conservation work, is necessary if we are to maximise the numbers of successfully finished products of older properties being brought back into use,” he added.
Among the topics being discussed at the conference will be ‘Understanding Carbon in the Built Environment’ by Peter Cox (FRSA) of Carrig Conservation; ‘Craftsmanship in Stone – CRAFTVALUE – IRC Advanced Laureate Project, by TCD’s Professor Christine Casey, Dr Andrew Tierney and Dr Melanie Hayes; ‘STONEBUILT IRELAND Research Project, by TCD’s Professor Patrick Wyse Jackson & Dr Louise Caulfield; ‘The ethics and ethos of Architectural Sculpture Conservation’ by leading restorative carver, Alan Micklethwaite; ‘FABTRADS – Moisture and Thermal Properties of a Range of Irish Stones and In-Situ U-Values of Stone walls’ by UCD’s Dr Rosanne Walker; ‘National Vernacular Strategy’ by Barry O’Reilly of the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage; ‘All-Ireland Heritage Skills Programme’ by Hugh Kavanagh of The Princes Foundation; and ‘Preservation of the Historical and Heritage Value of our Historical Burial Grounds and Graveyards’ by Dr John Treacy of Clare County Council’s Burial Grounds Division.
Other speakers include INStone’s Jamie Forde, MCIOB Building Surveyor, and also INStone’s Colin Grehan, Lead Sculptor who will provide a special presentation on ‘The Intricate Hand-Carving of the Replacement Four Courts Capitals’. An open questions and answers session will be chaired by Dr Brendan Dunford of Burrenbeo Trust at the close of the conference.
Visit www.irishnaturalstone.com for more on the first National INStone Symposium at on Wednesday September 6th.