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Architectural Evidence: Studying the Fabric of the Historic Building

Reconnaissance

An initial reconnaissance trip through a structure-or visual overview-provides the most limited type of investigation. But experienced investigators accustomed to observation and analysis can resolve many questions in a two-to-four hour preliminary site visit. They may be able to determine the consistency of the building's original form and details as well as major changes made over time.

The architectural investigation usually determines original construction details, the chronology of later alterations, and the physical condition of a structure. Most structures over fifty years old have been altered, even if only by natural forces. People living in a house or using a building for any length of time leave some physical record of their time there, however subtle.

A longer period of occupancy generally counts for greater physical change. Buildings acquire a "historic character" as changes are made over time.

Changes to architectural form over time are generally attributable to material durability, improvement in convenience systems, and aesthetics. First, the durability of building materials is affected by weathering, temperature and humidity, by disasters such as storms, floods or fire, or by air pollution from automobiles and industry. Second, changes in architectural form have always been made for convenience' sake-fueled by technological innovations-as people embrace better lighting, plumbing, heating, sanitation, and communication. People alter living spaces to meet changing family needs. Finally, people make changes to architectural form, features, and detailing to conform to current taste and style.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 
Vignette on evolution.