What People Say
“You might say that a building does not sicken and die like a man, and I would reply that indeed it does just that: it falls ill when undernourished, that is, when it is not maintained, and little by little falls into decline, just as a man, when he goes without food, will eventually drop dead. A building does just the same. But if it has a good doctor when it falls ill, that is, a master-builder who repairs and cures it, it will stay in good condition for a long time.
Antonio di Pietro Averlino, Libro architettonico (c.1464), Renaissance architect, sculptor & medallist; also known as Filarete: 1400-c.1469
“A fortune in comic books and baseball cards – over a million dollars’ worth of collectible treasure – was stored in an Emeryville, California, warehouse. Collector/entrepreneur Robert Beerbohm had thirty employees dealing the collection to a hundred companies worldwide. One night in 1986 it rained harder than usual. The flat warehouse roof ponded up and leaked torrentially – it had a known drainage problem, but maintenance had been deferred by the building owners. Water two feet deep turned the comics and cards to a smelly pulp that had to be trucked off as landfill. The insurance company cited a technicality and refused to cover the loss. His business gone, Beerbohm had a heart attack and a nervous breakdown which left him physically numb for two years.”
“No wonder people get in a permanent state of denial about the need for building maintenance. It is all about negatives, never about rewards. Doing it is a pain. Not doing can be.”
“The root of all evil is water. It dissolves buildings. Water is elixir to unwelcome life such as rot and insects. Water, the universal solvent, makes chemical reactions happen every place you don’t want them”
Stewart Brand: “How Buildings Learn: What happens after they’re built” (Viking, 1994)
“It is essential to the conservation of monuments that they be maintained on a permanent basis.”
“Maintenance is fundamental to conservation.”
“By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.”
The Old Testament: Ecclesiastes 10:18, (King James Version), possibly written 250 BCE
“Rain is always prepared to wreak mischief, and never fails to exploit even the least opening to do some harm: by its subtlety it infiltrates, by softening it corrupts, and by its persistence it undermines the whole strength of the building, until it eventually brings ruin and destruction on the entire work.”
Leon Battista Alberti, De re aedificatoria, (1450) Book 1 Chapter 13
“… Nor have as many buildings fallen into ruin by fire, sword, enemy hands, or by any other calamity, as have tumbled down for no other reason than human neglect, when left naked and deprived of the roof covering. Indeed, in buildings the covers are the weapon with which they defend themselves against the harmful onslaught of weather”
Leon Battista Alberti, De re edificatoria, Chapter 11
Alberti was a Renaissance architect and polymath(1404-1472)
“The principle of modern times….is to neglect buildings first, and restore them afterwards. Take proper care of your monuments, and you will not need to restore them. A few sheets of lead put in time upon a roof, a few dead leaves and sticks swept out of a water-course, will save both roof and walls from ruin.
Watch an old building with anxious care; guard it as best you may, and at any cost, from every influence of dilapidation. Count its stones as you would jewels of a crown; set watches about it as if at the gates of a besieged city; bind it together with iron where it loosens; stay it with timber where it declines; do not care about the unsightliness of the aid: better a crutch than a lost limb; and do this tenderly, and reverently, and continually, and many a generation will still be born and pass away beneath its shadow. Its evil day must come at last; but let it come declaredly and openly, and let no dishonouring and false substitute deprive it of the funeral offices of memory.”
John Ruskin, Seven Lamps of Architecture (1848).
“It is for all these buildings, therefore, of all times and styles, that we plead, and call upon those who have to deal with them, to put Protection in the place of Restoration, to stave off decay by daily care, to prop a perilous wall or mend a leaky roof by such means as are obviously meant for support or covering, and show no pretence of other art, and otherwise to resist all tampering with either the fabric or ornament of the building as it stands; if it has become inconvenient for its present use, to raise another building rather than alter or enlarge the old one; in fine to treat our ancient buildings as monuments of a bygone art, created by bygone manners, that modern art cannot meddle with without destroying.”
William Morris (et al) Manifesto of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (1877)
“The lesson we learned – re-learned is perhaps more accurate – is that planned or preventive maintenance, if it is skilfully devised, and then reviewed regularly, can save a great deal of money, and yet provide a service tailored to meet the needs of the user.
On the other hand, if it is not well-planned initially, or is allowed to become out-of- date, potential savings are turned to waste. This is worth emphasizing, because government, local authorities and private-sector organizations all spend big sums annually on various forms of planned maintenance, and many opportunities for economy are being overlooked” (pp41-42)
Leslie Chapman, “Your disobedient Servant” (Penguin, 1973) Leslie Chapman was a senior UK civil servant who exposed wasteful expenditure throughout much of central government, particularly in relation to the maintenance of buildings (mostly non-historic)