YCAA Study Tour of Tallinn, Estonia; Part 1: the Old Town

By Jaanika Reinvald-Colley, YCAA (Class of 2014-15).

The three-day Tallinn study tour started on the evening of Friday 7 September when we met at the Pegasus restaurant, in the building formerly known as the Writers’ House, built in 1963 to fill a gap created in the bombing of Tallinn during WWII. This happened to coincide with Tallinn’s marathon celebrations and as a result the city centre was entirely packed with people.


Tallinn Old Town

Our first day in Tallinn was spent on getting to know the Old Town. We started the day on Vabaduse Square at 10 o’clock where we were welcomed by one of our guides, Sabina Kaukis, an MA Conservation Studies student from the Estonian Academy of Arts [EEA]. From Sabina we learned about the early history of Estonia and Tallinn.

Being a small country in a strategic location on the shores of the Baltic Sea, Estonian history is one of subjugation and serfdom. Starting with the Northern Crusades in the Middle Ages, Estonia became a battleground for centuries where Denmark, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Poland fought their many wars over controlling the important geographical position of the country as a gateway between East and West.

Tallinn was founded in the 10th Century, but only at the beginning of the 13th Century did the Danes establish it as a fortified city. In 1285, the city joined the Hanseatic League and became a junction for organized trade on the Baltic Sea. In 1346 the city was transferred to the Teutonic Order. After the collapse of the Teutonic Order, the city fell under Swedish rule in 1561 and finally became part of the Tsarist Russia in 1710 during the Great Northern War. It was Peter I who restored the ancestral privileges of the established German community in Tallinn. The architecture in the old town, both upper and lower, to a great extent stems from the medieval times, 13th-14th Century and represent the history of the rulers.

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The ‘Tall Hermann’ tower (far right) as part of Toompea Castle, Tallinn, with the roof of the Parliament Building seen above the battlements. Source: Visit Estonia.

 


The Upper Town

Toompea, the upper town in Tallinn, has always been the administrative part of the country. The tallest tower of the original castle, the Tall Hermann, is used for the daily hoisting of the flag ceremony and forms a corner of the current parliament building. Opposite the parliament building is the Nevski Cathedral, the most highly decorated Orthodox Church in Tallinn. Unfortunately we did not have time to go and see the interior of the church as by then Toompea was inundated with cruise ship tourists. At the viewing platforms we saw the lower town, together with its red roofs, medieval church towers, narrow winding streets, public and burgher buildings.

Next stop was St Mary’s Cathedral (aka Dome Church), where we met Varje Ounapuu, a conservation student from the EAA, who showed us around the church and talked about the altarpiece conservation project that she had participated in. Made by the famous Estonian sculptor and carver, Christian Ackermann, the altarpiece is of particularly high value and various departments from the EAA were involved with the works.

 

The Lower Town

From the Dome Church we took the “Short Leg” down to the lower town, to St Nicholas Cathedral. Dr Anneli Randla took us around the former church. It was partially destroyed in Soviet bombing of Tallinn in WWII and has been since restored as part of the Art Museum of Estonia, mostly displaying ecclesiastical art from the Middle Ages.

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Dr Anneli Randla (centre) explaining about the Hermann Rode altarpiece conservation project at St Nicholas Cathedral. Find out more about it here. Source: Jaanika Reinvald-Colley

After an extended lunch break we met again at 6pm for an evening walking tour of the lower town. Dr Riin Alatalu, the head of ICOMOS Estonia, showed us the medieval urban fabric of Tallinn, including the town wall, Town Hall, the oldest pharmacy in Estonia, merchants’ craftsmen’s guild halls, and the domestic architecture of the merchants’ houses. Winding in and out of buildings, at one point marching into a restaurant’s rest room to see the original well and marvel at the painted decoration on the wooden ceiling beams, we got a good feel for the building plots, many of which survive virtually intact from the 13th-14th Centuries.

Having absorbed the architecture of the ruling classes we were ready for the second day at the open air museum, to see how the Estonian peasants have lived through the ages.

Further write-ups of the study tour of Tallinn will follow in the coming weeks.

The YCAA would like to thank the numerous local ‘hosts’ in Tallinn who gave up their time to show YCAA alumni around the city and its heritage, alumni who attended the study tour, and especially Jaanika Reinvald-Colley who organised and facilitated the visit. 

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Studley Royal Park & Fountains Abbey, YCAA study trip Saturday, 29 September, 2018

By Lily Liu, MA in Conservation Studies postgraduate (Class of 2018-19)


It was a beautiful sunny day and the perfect trip to mark the end of a technical orientation week. Thanks to the Alumni Association of the University of York, the new 2018/19 cohort of Conservation Studies and fellow alumni were able to visit the World Heritage Site of Studley Royal Park and Fountains Abbey. Led by Dr. Keith Emerick, Inspector of Ancient Monuments and an expert long-involved with the conservation management of the site, the tour offered a fascinating glimpse of English architecture, landscape and culture over the span of several centuries.

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St Mary’s Church, Studley Royal


The tour this year took a more academic approach compared to how last year’s MA students experienced Fountains Abbey. It was also an interesting ‘back to front’ approach, starting from the far end of the World Heritage Site at the Victorian church of St. Mary, where special access was granted for us, and ending at the abbey itself.

St Mary’s illustrious Gothic Revival interiors by William Burgess were a visual feast, and all were keen to take in the splendour of the gilding, sculpture, painting, stained glass, and other impressive crafts of art present in the building. Dr. Emerick also elucidated some major building phases, pointing out evidence of past structural issues and the importance of understanding the root of these problems from a conservation perspective.

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The “Surprise View” from Anne Bolyen’s Seat, with modern art installation (rather camouflaged here) on the mound in the centre of the picture.


From the church, the group meandered through the Georgian Water Gardens and its associated landscape and architectural follies. Though controversy over some modern art installations ensued over the course of intellectual debate, all agreed the views were nonetheless breathtaking and form part of an important historic environs. The aptly named “Surprise View” from the hideaway of Anne Boleyn’s seat did not disappoint, and acted as the perfect prelude to our finale: the spectacular ruins of the 11th-century Fountains Abbey.

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Dr. Keith Emerick illustrating conservation issues associated with one of the Abbey’s remaining arcade columns.


The monumental remnants of Fountains Abbey made for fitting ambience to stir the hearts of all conservation enthusiasts present. We began by stepping through the history of the vaults, into the open corridors of stone arches stretching toward the sky. Previous evidential values of plaster were examined, as Dr. Emerick drew our attention to the markings on the walls which showed a historic preference for more “
regular” drawn-on stone blocks, over the top of the uneven natural cut ashlar — though of very fine quality itself.

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Evidence of historic plaster on the Abbey’s walls, with drawn lines added to ‘improve’ the stonework by making it appear more regular.


The visit to Studley Royal Park – including all its gems of the Church of St. Mary, the Water Gardens, and the ruins of Fountains Abbey – was a highlight to the start of the year, and a trip that all participants involved will remember fondly, for the beautiful weather, picturesque settings as well as educational discussions.

 

The YCAA would like to thank Dr. Keith Emerick for kindly giving up his time to lead this visit, current students and alumni for attending, Lily for this fine write-up, and the University of York’s Office of Philanthropic Partnerships and Alumni for help in assisting the visit. 

[All images by Lily Liu]

York’s Railway Heritage

As a prelude to the York Conservation Alumni Association’s 2018 AGM on Saturday 14 July 2018, a healthy turnout of almost twenty alumni joined John Ives for a fascinating walking tour of some of York’s leading railway heritage.

Despite the unfortunate timing of the tour to coincide with the sweltering summer heat, the height of the tourist season, impatient traffic, and, worse still, streams of jovial punters heading to York Racecourse for the ‘John Smith’s Cup’, we were clearly in dependable hands.  John Ives is a Conservation Accredited Architect and a partner of York-based PPIY Architects Limited, as well as Chair of the City of York Council’s Conservation Area Appraisal Panel.  He has also been a leading figure in railway heritage for over the 40 years, due to having worked for British Rail’s Architects Department until its demise with privatisation in 1995, and as co-author of the York Station Conservation Development Strategy (2012).

In John’s introductory, and richly-illustrated, presentation, held in a spacious seminar room above Platform 8 of Thomas Presser’s highly impressive Grade II* Railway Station of 1877, it was evident that the Strategy Report of 2012 was a detailed audit of the city’s railway heritage, which spans nearly 200 years and numerous sites.  Who knew, for example, that the city has had three central railway stations in total, or that one of the country’s oldest extant water tower (built in 1839, Grade II listed) is tucked away in one of the station’s car parks!

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John Ives (centre, to the rear), pointing out the rich history of the Railway Institute building, with the foundations of the Queen Street bridge behind. Source: Duncan Marks.

 

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YCAA Study Tour to Tallinn, Estonia, 7-11 September 2018

York Conservation Alumni Association is delighted to invite alumni, current students, friends and colleagues to join us on our Study Tour to Tallinn in Estonia for September 2018.

Tallinn, the capital of the Baltic country Estonia has a fascinating architectural mix that has been influenced by different rulers and conquerors through the history. On the study trip to Tallinn we’ll be mainly concentrating on three facets – the largely intact medieval old town, the Kalamaja region that boasts some of the best examples of wooden architecture from first republic period, and the vernacular architecture in Rocca al Mare Open Air Museum.

Tallinn Old Town
Tallinn’s medieval Old Town

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York Central’s Railway Heritage Tour for YCAA members, Saturday 14 July, 11am-1pm

YCAA MEMBERS and their guests are invited to attend a free and exclusive heritage event on Saturday 14 July, 11am-1pm: York Central’s Railway Heritage Tour.

The tour, which will precede this year’s YCAA AGM in the afternoon at the King’s Manor (Room G/33), will explore the York Railway Station facade and York Central areas.

The City of York Council, and other stakeholders, are currently proposing major development schemes for the areas to the Station Front and rear of York’s Railway Station. The latter is a 45-hectare brownfield site known as York Central. It sits on a Roman cemetery and for the last 150 years has been used for various railway purposes, including the site today of the National Railway Museum. It means this could well be the last time to see and fully appreciate this heritage before demolition.

The tour will be led by John Ives, a graduate of Leeds School of Architecture, who worked for British Rail’s Architects Department until its demise with privatisation in 1995 and has been a leading figure in working with the railway heritage over the last 40 years.

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Conserving contested heritage in South India: the British Cemetery, Lovedale, Ootacamund, & Garrison Cemetery, Srirangapatna

Written by Duncan Marks, Conservation Studies alumni (2015-17)

 

Following recent restoration work by YCAA alumnus Ravindra Gundu Rao at two cemeteries in South India that hold close-association with the British Empire, and the wider work of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA), this article uses such conservation work to reflect upon the overlap between memory, place and commemoration.

As similar built heritage with imperial connotations has recently been seen by some as ‘contested heritage’, the parameters of such conservation are explored here in relation to time and space.  Parallels are drawn with other cemetery conservation and community initiatives, such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the British Government’s First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme, and Israel’s Youth Delegations to Poland programme.  Ultimately, we need to ask for whom should this built heritage be conserved, what purpose might it serve, and how might knowledge of it be better promoted?

 

British Cemetery, Lovedale, Ootacamund, Tamil Nadu

The British Cemetery at Lovedale, Ootacamund, in the Tamil Nadu state of South India, was opened in 1832.  The site of the cemetery is in the high hills of an extensive 750-acre campus of The Lawrence School.

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Some of the repair, environmental and landscaping challenges at the British Cemetery.  Source: Ravindra Gundu Rao.

The School was founded in 1858 in memory of Major General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, KCB, who died in the First War of Indian Independence against British Rule in 1857 (more commonly known in Britain as the ‘Indian Mutiny’).  It was created to provide vocational education to the orphans and the other children of European soldiers in India, and operated on a strictly Protestant Christian basis.  Despite the end of British rule in India in 1947, the connection of the school, and hence the cemetery, with the military continues today as a public school with a 40% pupil allocation reserved, and a 20% fee subsidy, for children of Indian Defence Personnel.

The cemetery has 124 tombs of which approximately 110 are of the British Christians who lived and passed away in India in the C19.  The work is currently in progress and soon to be complete.

The cemetery has suffered from exposure to monsoons, foliage growth on the stones, and other encroachments by nature; a common problem for cemeteries in India.  The scope of this project is to conserve the graves, statues and landscaping through repairs using traditional stone restoration works, structural repairs, restoration using traditional brick lime mortar, paving, stucco and lime plaster works.  As in many urban areas of India, a shortage of available local stone meant the British designed structures that were made of brick covered by plaster.  This only makes them more prone to deterioration from the effects of water ingress during monsoons.

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Conditional surveys conducted at the British Cemetery.  Source: Ravindra Gundu Rao.

The conservation project is being done in conjunction with the BACSA and funded by the school’s alumni Old Lawrence Association.  Indeed, the alumni association petitioned the school in 2016 for the restoration and maintenance of the school cemetery.  A sense of continued connection between alumni and the cemetery is evident in their petition comments, with ‘integral to the school’s heritage’ being a frequent remark made.  The comments made are on a personal and emotive level, with fond memories of the cemetery on the campus from their school days and a reverence to honour former pupils buried there.  There is little, however, offered to suggest the cemetery holds value in a wider national or political narrative. Continue reading

Conservation Masters Graduation, 2016-17

Conservation Masters degrees this year were awarded on Saturday 20 January by the University’s Chancellor, Sir Malcom Grant, at the Graduation ceremony in Central Hall on the Heslington West campus, together with an honorary degree awarded to the journalist, Orla Guerin MBE, who gave an inspiring and moving address.

In all, 18 students graduated with their MA in Conservation Studies and Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) from the 2016-17 year. A number of others, who were finishing their studies part-time, will receive their awards at the summer graduation on 26 July.

You can watch the ceremony on YouTube here. The Conservation awards begin around 28 minutes in to the recording.

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Jess Western and Tom Pinner celebrating at the graduation reception.  Tom is now working as Heritage and Design Officer with Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Council. Jess, from New Zealand, is planning to continue her studies in a PhD programme.

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