Save the date: YCAA Study Day in Scarborough, Saturday 16 March 2019


York Conservation Alumni Association is delighted to announce that alumni Stephen Gandolfi (2015/17), Conservation Officer at Scarborough Council, is currently arranging a study day in the town on behalf of YCAA members.

The site of a Roman signal station, Scarborough became an established town during the medieval era when an Angevin stone castle was established on the headland. Thereafter, it transformed into a spa town from the C17 onwards, and became the first popular British seaside resort destination in the C19. It remains the largest such resort in Yorkshire.

Consequently, the study day will address conservation issues that are pertinent to British coastal resorts with rich heritage. These are likely to include environmental issues, such as coastal erosion, as well as man-made issues, including the rise and fall (and rise again?) of the British seaside resort, the role heritage and conservation can play in coastal resort regeneration, and challenges set by high levels of socio-economic inequality.

An itinerary for the day is currently being put together by Stephen, but may well include:

A full schedule of the day will be made available shortly, when alumni will be able to sign-up via an Eventbrite page.

There will be no charge for the study trip, however alumni will be required to provide their own transport (there are plenty of reasonably priced hourly trains from York to Scarborough) and pay for their own lunch and sundries. [Fish & Chips and ice creams will likely be on the menu – regardless of the weather!]


South Cliff Gardens undergoing engineering works to prevent further cliff erosion. SOURCE: South Cliff Gardens Twitter




YCAA Study Tour of Tallinn, Estonia; Part 3: Kadriorg & Kalamaja

By Peter Fisher, YCAA (Class of 1972-73)



On the last day of our visit, we met up at Hobujaama, jumped onto one of Tallinn’s excellent new trams and headed east to the residential suburb and park of Kadriorg, where we were met by our guide, Markus, a student at the Estonian Academy of Arts.  This consists largely of timber buildings, in various stages of dilapidation or repair.  It was originally built as a middle-class development but during the post-war Soviet period, the previous owners were dispossessed and the houses subdivided to house an influx of predominantly Russian immigrants, who were later to be housed in large Plattenbau’-type housing schemes on the city’s periphery.  With the reestablishment of the Estonian Republic in 1991, the area began to be rehabilitated and restored, but this has been somewhat impeded by ownership problems.

Kadroirg Palace. Source: Visit Estonia

Kadriorg means Catherine’s Valley and the park was laid out in the early C18 by Peter the Great in honour of his wife Catherine I.  Its centrepiece is the colourful baroque Kadriorg Palace, reminiscent of the Hermitage in St Petersburg, though on a much smaller scale, which gives it a slightly ‘doll’s house’ character.  Today it is the Kadriorg Art Museum, housing a collection of mainly foreign art. We also saw the Presidential Palace, dating from 1938 and now again in the use for which it was built, complete with a ceremonial military guard.  We then walked on through the park to view the very impressive Kumu [Kunstimuuseum] building, a spectacular modern structure, cleverly integrated into the park landscape and containing predominantly Estonian art.  Unfortunately, being Monday, it was closed but we were able to enjoy much-needed refreshments in the café before heading back to the tram terminus and the centre of Tallinn. Continue reading

YCAA Study Tour of Tallinn, Estonia; Part 2: Vernacular and Modern

By Keith Garner (Class of 1992-93), a London-based architect


Open-Air Museum

Day two of the study tour began at the Estonian Open-Air Museum, located to the west of the Old Town at Rocca al Mare.  We were shown around by Marike Laht, head of the conservation department.  The collection consists of farmsteads and other building types showing the development of Estonian vernacular architecture.  The earlier buildings are log-built farmsteads, with interesting corner jointing techniques varying by region and over time.  A transformation is seen in the later nineteenth century with the advent of sawn timber allowing further levels of refinement, for example the very fine house from the Eastern Virumaa district of 1909.

A fine sawn-timber farmhouse from Eastern Virumaa district (1909) at the Open Air Museum. Source: Keith Garner

The museum site at Rocca Al Mare site is forested, enabling each building to be experienced largely as a single entity as it would have been in its original location.  Part of the site opens on to Kopli Bay where, appropriately, the museum has located a fisherman’s house, and from where we could see back to the Old Town.  Beyond the mostly tree-lined bay (with the occasional new seaside apartment block) we could see the spires of the Old Town and – jarringly – large buildings from the Soviet era and more recent times immediately beyond. Continue reading

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.

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.

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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!

YCAA alumni
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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