Session 5: Mosaics and Contemporary (Judith Bützer and Katharina Klauke)

User menu

Another day of the IIC Edinburgh Congress concluded with an interesting session on mosaics and contemporary materials. Whether it is the careful dismantling and reinstallation of monumental architectural artworks in the USA; documentation, treatment, and storage of archaeological mosaics without backings in the Mediterranean region; or stepping through uninstalled windows to clean the back of polyester wall installations in Germany, Session 5’s papers highlight the challenges of working with active construction sites and the benefits of collaboration and training to develop local expertise for short and long-term conservation projects.

Judith Bützer and Katharina Klauke’s presentation on Integrating Art Conservation and Building Restoration in the Care of Organic Architecture introduced us to Düsseldorf’s Schauspielhaus, an example of the Organic Architecture movement, designed by Bernhard Pfau and built between 1965 and 1969. This structure integrates both exterior and internal design and was awarded historic monument status in 1998. During a 2014 urban development project for the space around the Schauspielhaus, conservators were consulted about the refurbishment of the building. Two types of polyester materials installed in the building posed interesting conservation challenges. The first, a group of polyester wall installations, was integrated into the architecture of the building and required in situ treatment. This challenge required open dialogue and a symbiotic relationship between the active construction site and the treatment plan, which was also discussed today in the second presentation – the monumental architectural artworks project. The embedded dirt on these walls required surface cleaning and a Tripoli earth poultice, followed by the introduction of a polyester-based resin to minimize the appearance of cracking.

The second challenge involved six cylindrical objects consisting of layered, amber-coloured polyester resin, illuminated from below by incandescent light bulbs recessed into the building structure. Scratches caused by years of use as furniture by visitors had rendered the surface of these objects opaque. These pieces were treated off-site, to polish and repair chips and cracks in the surface, but first required custom pedestals for transportation and conservation.

The Q&A indicated that Tripoli earth provided the best balance between low abrasiveness (to not scratch the surface) and effective cleaning action. Additionally, the Tripoli earth lightly polished the surface. The wall installations required hand polishing with the paste, while the cylindrical objects were mechanically polished to ensure that the surfaces remained flat. The Q&A ended with a question regarding whether the public would re-evaluate the newly treated polyester objects as works of art rather than architectural elements to be interacted with. Katharina indicated that it is unclear how the public will now interpret these works, as their treatment occurred in tandem with the renovation of the rest of the building. As the usage of these objects appears to be integrated into the architectural plan, the extent of any future treatment may be limited to restoring their visual properties as was done during this treatment.

This presentation is reflective of the expanding role of the conservator, and their role in logistical coordination with other trades and disciplines.

The IIC Edinburgh Congress will continue to provide exciting discussions over the next few days. Remember to check back here for further insights into the upcoming sessions!

(Screenshots taken by Lindsay Sisson)


Author Byline:

Lindsay Sisson is a Conservation Intern at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.