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The themes of conservation and recovery of heritage construction, due perhaps to natural hazards, have always been subject to development and criticism, and often create questions in regards of reconstruction modalities and efficiency of restoration/consolidation.
Rebuild "as it was and where it was" after an earthquake, for instance, arouses many ambiguities and doubts. The concept of "how it was" can be interpreted in different ways: from the physical reconstruction following older building plans to the purely scenic and iconic rebuilding; perhaps retaining the external forms and modifying the interior, even at the expense of the typological and constructive aspects that constitute an integral and essential architecture instead. These differences in thoughts often make architectural reconstruction or restoration a challenge.
Furthermore the distinction between restoration, understood as the prevailing conservative practice, and consolidation. Restorations present many “static problems”, which consist of limitations due to the difference between the older technologies that were used to build and the newer ones that are instead used to restore the building. Restoration is often hazardous and subject to many critics as it can alter the original aspect of the building, even though its goal is to restore it. Consolidation is instead a “safer” approach is carried out carefully. It can save buildings that are particularly weak and preserve their aesthetics; but it is difficult to combine new technologies to an older buildings. Consolidation can also alter the stylistic integrity of a building, or even a monument, as it can change construction methods and processing of materials, denaturalising it.
It follows that the technical solution to a static problem results connected with the issues of interpretation and judgment of an architect and his team.
In seismic areas, regulations have been made that would consider consolidation processes as a derived element of techniques adopted in new constructions, in order to give architects and engineers that may have to consolidate the building to have a set path to follow with the substitution of traditional structures with new building elements. With seismic risk assessment techniques, architects and engineers can produce very advanced consolidation in order to preserve historic constructions.
Consolidation of buildings in seismic areas consists of; reducing vulnerability, by acting upon and strengthening most critical elements, and adding external elements, which can withstand seismic power. This has its safety advantages of course, by protecting human lives and by preserving the destruction of buildings, but however in both cases, consolidation methods do not tend to be homogenous, and they often alter the authenticity of historic buildings due to external elements being used. Consolidation can more often take place before a seismic event, making the process more effective, or following the event, in order to reduce the impact of aftershock and provide provisional shelter.
Restoration is a much wider process. It depends directly on environmental factors that can erode and ruin the surface of buildings and monuments. Historic buildings and monuments are vulnerable to atmospheric agents, and it is common sense that long exposure puts the building or sculpture after the effect of many erosive chemical agents and reactions.