Historic traditional houses or buildings are normally considered as significant evidence of the past lifestyle. Therefore, the conservation of these traditional houses/buildings, in the context of revitalization and preservation of architectural heritage, is to some extent the conservation of culture (Hubbard 371). The conservation of traditional houses across the world has been a very common occurrence and is often implemented well. However, protecting and revitalizing built heritage and conserving the local cultural and traditional values of communities worldwide for future generations has been an evolving challenge for architects and developers. The primary aim of conservation is to invigorate cultural properties by assessing their historical, cultural, architectural, visual, environmental, and aesthetic characteristics. This report will present the conservation model approach to the Omani-French Museum. The paper will talk about the lessons of traditional conservation, as well as discuss the aims of conservation engineering, supporting technology, repair techniques, planned maintenance, and emergency procedures.
The Omani–French relationship can be traced to the 17th century when ships carrying spices and sugar from France met Omani vessels and Kilwa, Mombasa, and Zanzibar. France tried to establish an embassy in Muscat in 1794. However, the first ambassador took residence at Muscat after the dedication of Bait France to the French as a show of both countries’ continued relationship (Hegazy 268). In 1948, the British Bank of the Middle East occupied the building after being abandoned by the French. The building was then rededicated to the French by Sultan Qaboos during his state visit to France in 1989. Later, in 1992, it was converted to a museum and became the only building worldwide to be entirely dedicated to the mutual relationships between two countries. The building is constructed around a central courtyard with thick interior and exterior walls up to approximately 0.944 meters. Notably, the first level was approximately 6 meters up and the roof was another 12 meters up from the ground (Hegazy 268). Generally, the house depicted classic Omani architecture, including a wide variety of inspirations from Islamic, Portuguese, and Persian.
Through conservation engineering, the restoration of the Omani-French Museum achieved identity and continuity through an accurate renovation process and with complete attention to every detail of the house. The architectural and esthetical values were attained through the tools used in the house, particularly the paint and colour designs. Conservation engineering normally aims at improving is to preserve the quality environment by maintaining pollution free surroundings and ensuring a continuous yield of useful vegetation. Before initiating the process, an integrated team of experts, including environmental engineers, conservators, architects, archaeologists, and historic garden engineers collaborated and integrated their experiences to ensure that the conservation of the building did not affect the environment (Hegazy 268). The selected techniques and finishes were remembered with a firm level of confidence.
The house had some of the greatest unique architectural features, for instance, carved wooden doors, in addition to stucco work and carved wooden screens. Conserving and restoring old houses normally require the application of new technology in order to enhance a suitable level for its new status.
Normally, technology is used in the conservation and restoration process to acquire the desired level of suitability and comfort (Hegazy 268). Full automatic wood curving machines were used as supporting technology in the restoration of the wooden doors. It also has spiritual and symbolic values since the building signifies one of the orientations of old-fashioned Omani architecture. The conservation successfully considered the traditional Omani architecture by appreciating the colours and components of the natural physical environment (Hubbard 370). In fact, supporting technology was confirmed by the use of technology of local materials, including mud, stone, lime, and wood, with a limited elevation of a maximum of three stories. Sound technological knowledge was used in the restoration of every room that was combined with sound sensitivity, craftsmanship, and design.
Fundamentally, decisions regarding alteration and repair of an old building like the Omani-French Museum should be based on knowledge of its original form, materials used for construction, and the various transformation over the years. Reversibility was used as the repair technique in the conservation of this old building (Teutonico, Marie, and Fidler 47). One main aim of using this technique is because the process involved screwed restoration. Notably, the convenience of removal of prosthesis and repositioning allows for modifications or repairs of restorations. This also helps in the maintenance of hygiene and favours the monitoring of the surrounding plants. Another repair approach used in the preservation of this building is stylistic restoration. Particularly, this is because the process considered the principle of the architectural heritage of Oman. Considerable work was put on the massively thick walls and wooden screens due to the need of removing additions from previous periods and restore the initial architecture.
The government of Oman plans to maintain the building through preventive maintenance that is frequently applied to most restored and upgraded old buildings. Typically, this means scheduled inspection, maintenance, as well as predictive maintenance. It is important to note that predictive maintenance has a significant role as it allows for the identification of potential failures and provides a definite time for intervention and preventive action to take place before the actual failure occurs. Emergency procedures at the building have been well laid in response to a rationally predictable future. The general emergency procedures at the Omani-French Museum include main exit points and alternative exit points in case the former is blocked. The management of the museum has also developed a fire evacuation plan with safe meeting areas and designated exit points. The level of underground water has also been assessed and it was determined that rainwater affects its flow. Through complete damp proofing from outside and inside, the underground water penetration was solved. Furthermore, the corrosive iron pillars and walls were replaced with new ones and a trench f about 220 cm high was dug around the Omani-French Museum.
The restoration of the Omani-French Museum is a real example of the process of conserving old traditional buildings. By studying the restoration process of this building, one can learn the various conservation engineering used as a way of preserving traditional buildings. With its complex nature, it was important to consider the effects of used materials and colours on the environment. The conservation process requires planning, huge funding, work, expertise, and the participation of various professionals. The major experts involved in the conservation process include building economists, environmental, structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers, material scientists, art historians, conservators, curators, and craftsmen. It is important to periodically record the groundwater level of an old building since the presence of water in any form can lead to the acceleration of wrought and decay of various building materials. Furthermore, it is necessary to ban all vehicles from accessing old buildings and restrict vehicle speed. Cultural, religious, and spiritual aspects of the building must be considered. Most importantly, authentic and original ideas of the traditional building, including esthetical and technical appearance, and original materials must be considered during restoration. However, the absence of material experts during the process of restoration can result in problems with regard to the appearance and safety of a traditional building. Also, the absence of a garden or environmental engineer can result into the excessive use of the area around the building without choosing the type of vegetation.
Hegazy, Soheir. M. “Conservation of Historical Buildings – The Omani–French Museum as A Case Study.” HBRC Journal, vol. 11 no. 2, (2015); 264–274. doi:10.1016/j.hbrcj.2014.03.010
Teutonico, Jeanne Marie, and John Fidler. “Time for Change: An Overview of Building-Materials Research for Conservation of Historic Structures.” APT Bulletin: The Journal of Preservation Technology, vol. 29, no. 3/4, (1998); 45–49. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1504612.
Hubbard, Philip. “The Value of Conservation: A Critical Review of Behavioural Research.” The Town Planning Review, vol. 64, no. 4, (1993); 359–373. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40113622.Order Now