If you have ever felt a sense of excitement
and mystery going inside an old building whether occupied
or vacant it is probably because its materials and features
resonate with the spirit of past people and events. Yet excitement
about the unknown is heightened when a historic structure is examined
architecturally, and its evolution over time emerges with increasing
clarity to reveal the lives of its occupants. Architectural investigation
is the critical first step in planning an appropriate treatment-understanding
how a building has changed over time and assessing levels of deterioration.
Whether as a home owner making sympathetic
repairs, a craftsman or contractor replacing damaged or missing
features, or a conservator reconstituting wood or restoring decorative
finishes, some type of investigative skill was used to recognize
and solve an architectural question or explain a difficult aspect
of the work itself.
To date, very little has been written for
the layman on the subject of architectural investigation. This
Preservation Brief thus addresses the often complex investigative
process in broad, easy-to-understand terminology. The logical
sequence of planning, investigation and analysis presented in
this Brief is applicable to all buildings, geographic locations,
periods, and construction types. It is neither a "how to"
nor an exhaustive study on techniques or methodologies; rather,
it serves to underscore the need for meticulous planning prior
to work on our irreplaceable cultural resources.