The "About houses" project started two years ago and comes to an end right now.
A lot of stuff, in seven languages, has been done:
- we created a research template, which can be used as a pattern for all who have to do research on a topic
- 16 houses in seven countries were recorded, including their social and building history
- 13 tutorials around the topic of house restoration, campaigning and publishing have been written
- a glossary, in which specific terms are explained, ease the access to the topic
We worked with experts in the field of restoration, heritage and preservation, with people who are living in old houses, who are restoring their own houses, with historians and people who were just curious to explore their neighborhood. Some of our partners could involve municipalities in their local work as they saw the chance to value local treasures, such as houses, the knowledge and engagement of local people.
When we started the project, we had such unmeasurable aims like
- to sensitize inhabitants and local people about their direct impact on their environment regarding historical relations to their place
- to sensitize people of old and young generations about the worth of traditional manual skills
- to develop a basic understanding of house constructions and efficient use of material to maintain houses in their original character
- to convey respect for the architecture, develop a deeper sense of taste
As described above, we involved a divers mix of people in this project. Some of them were already conscious about the values of old houses, during various occasions they showed and explained their work, and this was in a way enlightening for those which never ever thought seriously before about sensitive restoration. However, the main killer argument is the financial and time effort you have to take into account when starting a restoration project. We already restored three houses mainly by ourselves. It's not really easy to make a balance. It all depends on your skills and willingness to learn, your time budget. If you can do a lot by yourself, you only need time, which is worth money, of course ;-) But you pay yourself with new skills, fun and pride.
Old houses often have a very clear, easy structure. Former builders used materials from the region, what was easy available for them. This is an advantage nowadays as you can re-use these old materials, which is also more sustainable and ecological. And in this way you also keep the character and charme of an old house.
There is a lot help available, at least in every country we discovered a big willingness to support those people who want to restore their house with free advice. Well, there is seldom monetary support.
However, most of the people restore a house once in their life, to spend their life there. This should be worth a fortune on thoughts, time and love.
Sounds a bit romantic considering that old houses are very often unaffordable or, to the other extreme, abandoned in many villages and cities around Europe, that many governments and banks prefer support for new buildings rather for the restoration of old one's. On first look, it's easy made money by selling a piece of land, divide it in plots and build new houses. This also requires a new infrastructure and thus it leads to urban sprawl of our environment. A good balance between old and new would be good but it seems to be very complicate to think in a long term when it comes to local development.
Anyway, this project was a very interesting experience and the contacts we made will support our next “old house restoration project”.