The Gothic Revival brought its own dangers to medieval buildings, for there were plenty of ignorant or misguided architects who did immense damage when zealously ‘restoring’ ancient churches within inches of their lives when they thought they were ‘preserving’ them: some Anglo-Saxon fabric was lost at St Wystan's, Repton, Derbys., in the 1850s, and ‘Great’ Scott's proposals for Tewkesbury Abbey, Glos., galvanized Morris and others to establish the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), which in C20 played an important role in developing a philosophy for preservation and conservation that would respect as much of the historic fabric as possible. Many ruined ecclesiastical buildings (abbeys, priories, etc.) and military buildings (castles, etc.) began to be cared for under the aegis of the Government in the British Isles: these required maintenance to prevent further decay. The National Trust was set up at the end of C19 to preserve places of natural beauty, and from the 1930s started to acquire country-houses, open to the public: nevertheless, there have been many grievous losses.
The disappearance of landscape unspoiled by human encroachment led to the establishment of huge National Parks in the USA, starting with Yellowstone in 1872, and the Government may designate areas meriting preservation, even if in private ownership. Furthermore, the loss of fine buildings prompted the founding of organizations to preserve ‘landmarks’, in the USA mostly through private finance. Catastrophic losses of historic fabric in Europe during the 1914–18 and 1939–45 wars led to a belated recognition that the preservation of historic buildings is of international importance, and from the mid-C20 states started to cooperate to this end. One example of an international rescue was the saving of the Ancient Egyptian temples at Abu Simbel and Philae from inundation caused by the erection of the dam at Aswan: this involved (1966–8) dismantling and re-erecting buildings on higher land, and encouraged the creation of a World Heritage List and Fund to protect and preserve the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. In 1964 was founded the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which has produced guidelines for those involved in preservation, and has encouraged the sharing of knowledge and the training of young people. In 1965 the World Monuments Fund was set up, which has been involved in preserving several buildings and sites, and in 1995 it established World Monuments Watch to decide on what is to be done in the years to come.
Individual buildings are one thing, but often it is desirable to preserve large swathes of towns and cities because of their character. The Civic Amenities Act (1967) introduced legislation to designate Conservation Areas in Great Britain, and in France, the USA, and elsewhere such areas have been protected, preserved, and restored to life. Jane Jacobs was very important in awakening North America to the urban catastrophe (as destructive as any war) being perpetrated by architects and planners under the misnamed label of urban renewal: she attracted venomous attacks from Modernists such as Banham, but gradually several of her ideas achieved acceptance. In some cases, where areas in cities ceased to function (e.g. Covent Garden Market, London, or the Marais, Paris), preservation schemes have revitalized them, yet it is only a few years ago that both areas were threatened with wholesale destruction and ‘redevelopment’.
ICOMOS publications (various dates);
S. Marks (ed.) (1996);
pres·er·va·tion / ˌprezərˈvāshən/ • n. the action of preserving something: the preservation of the city's green spaces food preservation. ∎ the state of being preserved, esp. to a specified degree: the homestead is in a fine state of preservation.