Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Every winner has scars

Robert N.C. Nix said "every winner has scars." I'll admit to not knowing who Mr. Nix is, but I will agree that heritage buildings who have survived alterations, near demolitions and changes all around them are winners in my eyes. And they bear scars from their battle to survive.
I read the term 'roof scars' somewhere - wish I could recall where, so I could attibute this very apt term to its creator. Roof scars - traces of a previous roof line visible on a wall , showing up as discoloration, differences in material, intriguing lines. The Quebec city building on the left shows changes in the roofline of the structure which once stood beside it, as it grew, and the addition of another storey to itself. The limestone parapet wall in Kingston shows a brick fireplace and flue exposed by the demolition of its neighbour...quite a shock, like an elderly lady on the sidewalk in her nightgown.
I'll admit to a tendency over time to view an old building as if it had always been that way - forgetting of course that as we age, we change. Buildings that have stood for a century or more are very unlikely to be in their original condition - additions for practical reasons (a wing, dormers, repairs after fires, concrete basements under moved buildings), changes in fashion (producing add-ons and combinations of styles - harmonious or otherwise), inaccuracies due to lack of information (you could call it the Knossos effect), limited skill or resources (removal of Regency treillage, the vinyl siding compromise), myths about features of early buildings (a pet peeve of Miss MacRae), loss of associated heritage landscape (my favourite Glanmore property), and lots of other factors combine to make appreciation of old buildings an intriguing puzzle.

For many years my response to old buildings has been an emotional one - how lovely, how unusual, what about this building intrigues me so, what makes my heart ache? A global holistic approach. Now that my architectural knowledge is increasing, I am more analytical, and my appreciation of detail increases with my ability to name and describe it and place it in history.

Now I begin to see the need to become a detective! All good.

1 comment:

  1. And I think you have your work cut out for you...and no shortage of work as a detective, either! I think the buildings that have been set adrift from a former (attached) neighbour look a bit bemused - sort of like the one individual who doesn't take a step backwards when the call comes...'any volunteers?'