Process of change and modernisation in old parsonages of Finland

Soikkeli, Anu (2003) Process of change and modernisation in old parsonages of Finland. In: 14th ICOMOS General Assembly and International Symposium: ‘Place, memory, meaning: preserving intangible values in monuments and sites’, 27 – 31 oct 2003, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. [Conference or Workshop Item]


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Abstract (in English)

Parsonages are a central part of Finnish cultural environment, and have had an effect on their surroundings in many ways. Until the early 1900’s parsonages functioned not only as dwellings for the clergyman and his family, but also as farmhouses. In addition to the functional solutions dictated by agriculture, the architecture of parsonages has always displayed the social and cultural conditions and values of their inhabitants and builders. However, the period of modernization that followed the First World War began to erode the parsonage tradition, as the status of the clergyman in the community changed, parsonage agriculture was given up, and new industrial construction materials and thorough, modernizing repairs replaced traditional upkeep. This study examines changes in the condition and renovation methods of the 550 preserved parsonages caused by modifications in their use. As the study progressed, it revealed that only about 20 % of the currently preserved parsonages are even partly used by the clergy. In addition to being a residence, other presentday use varies from parish hall to stone working shop, and from social reception facility to children’s day care center. Changes made during the 20th century have often caused a new problem as far as the question of preservation is concerned. What are we actually preserving or wish to save? The parsonage culture, which has actually already disappeared due to the changes in the living habits of the clergy? The setting, which often has been radically modified? The building, which has very little of its antiquarian value remaining? Or are we only preserving a historical memory? For hundreds of years, up to the 1950’s, parsonages were commonly repaired in a delicate way that did not destroy their basic nature. Only parts of the building requiring upkeep were repaired. At the end of the decade and in the 1960’s repairs were increasingly characterized by allinclusiveness and industrial materials that were foreign to old buildings. In the frenzy of total renewal many parsonages lost not only their original layout and scale, but also their old materials and heating systems with tiled ovens. Fortunately, in many cases renewal and installation of surface sheeting were done hurriedly and conveniently by simply covering the old materials. Similarly, old surfaces in need of repair were covered with brightly-coloured chipboard sheeting in the 1970’s. However, in the 1980’s all too often parsonages were repaired too thoroughly and carefully. Old materials were often discarded, leaving only the log frame to bear witness to the history of the building. In such a case nothing can be saved. Fortunately, in this decade we have increasingly begun to value things that are old. Nevertheless, it is still difficult to accept layered history in a building. We would rather see a building restored to the appearance of a given period, which often distorts the history of the building.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Soikkeli, Anu
Languages: English
Keywords: parsonages; conservation; timber; modernization; repais
C.ARCHITECTURE > 04. Building materials
H.HERITAGE TYPOLOGIES > 09. Historic buildings
ICOMOS Special Collection: Scientific Symposium (ICOMOS General Assemblies)
ICOMOS Special Collection Volume: 2003, 14th
Depositing User: Jose Garcia
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2010 08:23
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2011 19:16

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