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AUSTRALIA ICOMOS  CONFERENCE,  2015 FABRIC  –  THREADS  OF  CONSERVATION CONSERVATION  OF  THE  STATE  LIBRARY  OF  VICTORIA  :  CASE  STUDY Dan  Blake

September 2015

Dan Blake  Lovell  Chen  Architects  &  Heritage  Consultants   Level  5,  176  Wellington  Parade   East  Melbourne  VIC  3002   +61  (0)3  9667  0800   dblake@lovellchen.com.au


PRESENTER BIOGRAPHY Dan  Blake  joined  Lovell  Chen  in  2007  and  is  a  Senior  Associate  specialising  in  building   conserva>on  and  restora>on.    In  2012,  Dan  aCend  the  Diadrasis  Martos  Workshop—  for   the  conserva>on  of  a  sixteenth  century  stone  monument  in  Spain,  run  in  associa>on  with   ICRROM,  University  of  York,  University  of  Jean,  the  City  of  Martos,  the  Department  of   Culture,  ADSUR,  IAPH  and  IPCE.     A  number  of  projects  on  which  Dan  has  contributed  his  skills  have  received  peer   recogni>on  including  the  AIA  (Victoria)  Architecture  Awards  2014  commenda>on  and  John   George  Knight  Award  for  Heritage  for  the  Melbourne  GPO  roof  and  façade  conserva>on   works. B  Arch  (RMIT) MA  Cultural  Materials  ConservaZon  (Melb)  in  fieri AIA AICCM MICOMOS


ABSTRACT The State  Library  is  one  of  Victoria’s  most  important  public  buildings.  Our  most  recent   works  involved  the  external  conserva>on  of  the  Dome  Reading  Room  and  Western  Façade.     Constructed  in  several  phases  from  the  mid  19th  century  through  to  the  early  20th  century,   the  fabric  of  the  façades  exhibits  changes  in  construc>on  techniques  and  materials.   The  works  to  the  Dome  Reading  Room,  comprising  the  repair  of  cement  stucco  and  the   Kahn  reinforced  concrete  system,  have  presented  many  challenges,  not  least  the  limita>ons   on  structural  loading  and  difficult  access  due  to  the  rela>vely  recent  infill  of  the   surrounding  courtyards.     Trials  of  washcoa>ng  systems  were  undertaken  using  different  forms  of  liquid  Copperas  and   pigment  cement.    This  raised  ques>ons  about  the  intended  opacity,  the  current  intent  with   respect  to  masking  colour  differences  in  patch  repairing  of  render,  and  the  longevity  of  an   untried  coa>ng  system.    Client  expecta>ons  with  respect  to  costly  and  difficult  access,  the   public  profile  of  the  building  and  how  a  significant  change  in  the  colour  and  presenta>on  of   the  Dome  might  be  received  were  also  important  factors  to  consider.     The  works  to  the  Western  Eleva>on  presented  complex  challenges  in  defining  the  extent  of   conserva>on  with  respect  to  the  nature  of  previous  repairs.    


SNAPSHOT Our recent  works  at  the  State  Library  of  Victoria  (SLV)  have  been  focused  on  the   conserva>on  and  restora>on  of  the  exterior  of  the  Dome  Reading  Room  (c.1913)  and  the   Western  Façade  (c.1854).    These  two  dis>nct  areas  of  the  building  represent  major  phases   in  the  development  of  the  Library  in  the  nineteenth  and  into  the  twen>eth  centuries  and   demonstrate  significant  changes  in  technological  advancement  over  sixty  years  of  the   construc>on  industry.  (Lovell  Chen  2011  pp  7-­‐43) The  SLV  is  recognized  as  one  of  the  earliest  ‘free  public  libraries’  within  the  greater   interna>onal  context  —  being  contemporary  with  those  of  London,  Paris  and  New  York  —   and  at  the  >me  of  its  construc>on  it  was  one  of  the  most  visited  place  in  the  world.  (Lovell   Chen  2011  pp  7-­‐13)    

Figure 1      Diagram  indicaZng  stages  of  development  of  the  State  Library  of  Victoria  site  from  1850   –  1970. Source:  ConservaZon  Management  Plan,  Lovell  Chen  

In 1999  the  Dome  Reading  room  underwent  major  renova>ons  internally  and  to  the  roof  to   reinstate  the  skylights,  which  had  been  covered  over  in  the  1960s.    These  works  did  not   focus  on  the  render  or  Khan  reinforced  concrete  dome  drum,  and  with  the  arrival  of  the  


centenary of  the  Dome  Reading  Room,  works  commenced  to  repair  the  dome  drum  and   western  façades.     The  key  component  of  the  works  to  the  dome  drum  was  in  the  discovery  of  remnants  of   the  original  Copperas  (bright  gold-­‐yellow)  finish  to  the  dome  render.    The  ini>al  review  of   remnants  of  this  yellow  coa>ng  system  suggested  a  possible  paint  finish.    Microscopic   review  of  the  coa>ng  system  indicated  that  the  yellow  colourant  appeared  to  be  a   dispersion  of  iron  par>cles  in  a  lime-­‐based  (calcium  carbonate)  binder.    Samples  were   removed  from  the  site  and  x-­‐ray  florescence  (XRF)  analysis  was  undertaken  on  the  front   and  back  of  the  sample  to  measure  the  differences  between  the  composi>on  of  the   coa>ng,  which  had  only  been  applied  to  one  side  of  the  render,  with  that  of  the  substrate,   par>cularly  given  the  similari>es  in  the  use  of  materials.    Both  the  front  and  back  of  the   sample  contained  traces  or  iron  (Fe),  calcium  (Ca)  and  >tanium  (Ti).  Unusually  the  front  of   the  sample  indicated  the  presence  of  lead  (Pb)  in  the  L-­‐lines,  which  peaked  towards  the   end  of  the  scan.    

Figure 2      X-­‐ray  fluorescence  spectra  data  from  rear  of  sample  1. Source:  University  of  Melbourne  CCMC


Figure 3      X-­‐ray  fluorescence  spectra  data  from  front  of  sample  1,   note  the  presence  of  lead  (Pb).   Source:  University  of  Melbourne  CCMC  

Our ini>al  response  to  the  presence  of  lead  was  to  ques>on  whether  the  system  may  be   lead-­‐based  paint.  However,  further  assessment  indicated  that  the  presence  of  lead  in  the  L-­‐ line  suggested  the  presence  of  another  element  when  reviewed  under  the  K-­‐line.    On  this   basis  the  presence  of  lead  was  ruled  out  and  it  was  concluded  the  coa>ng  system  was  a   composi>on  of  iron-­‐sulfide,  commonly  know  as  Copperas.   With  the  assistance  of  Dr.  Donald  Ellsmore,  we  began  trials  with  of  reinstatement  of  the   Copperas  coa>ng  system,  with  a  view  to  achieving  a  uniform  finish  and  satura>on  of   Copperas  in  new  render  repairs  and  exis>ng  render.    It  is  understood  that  the  reac>on  of   Copperas  in  turning  yellow  requires  ac>ve  lime  content.    The  older  renders  posed  a   problem  as  much  of  the  ac>ve  lime  content  had  oxidized  and  would  not  provide  the   reac>on  to  an  acceptable  depth  of  satura>on  to  match  the  new  repairs.     A  number  of  systems  were  trialled,  some  containing  lime  water,  lime  puCy  and  other  such   combina>ons  of  Copperas  and  lime.    These  trials  achieved  a  yellow  coloura>on  with  a  level   of  varia>on  that  was  consistent  with  early  photographs  of  the  dome  drum.    The  satura>on   increased  as  the  reac>on  con>nued  over  a  number  of  days;  however  the  end  result   presented  substan>al  difference  in  satura>on  between  new  render  and  the  exis>ng   regardless  of  the  method  used  to  apply  the  Copperas.  


Figure 4      ApplicaZon  of  Copperas  coaZng  over  secZon  of  both  new  and  exisZng  render.  Note  the   saturaZon  of  the  new  render  with  acZve  lime  content  compared  with  the  older   render  lacking  in  lime. Source:  Lovell  Chen  2014

Figure 5        Further  samples  of  Copperas  using  lime  puey  based  wash.  Right  side  of  image  contains   a  second  coaZng  of  Copperas  soluZon.  Note  far  right  side  of  image  contains  small   remnants  of  original  copperas  coaZng  which  has  weathered.   Source:  Lovell  Chen  2014


Figure 6      Further  samples  of  Copperas  using  lime  water  and  copperas  in  a  number  of  coaZngs  over   new  and  exisZng  render.    Note  the  varied  level  of  saturaZon  achieved  between  the   exisZng  render  and  new. Source:  Lovell  Chen  2015


Figure 7      Further  samples  of  Copperas  using  lime  water  and  Copperas  in  a  number  of  coaZngs   over  new  and  exisZng  render.    Note  the  varied  level  of  saturaZon  achieved   between  the  exisZng  render  and  new. Source:  Lovell  Chen,  photo  Andrew  Latreille,  2015

Further review  of  the  finish  posed  complex  issues  to  be  resolved  before  proceeding  with   the  applica>on  of  a  reinstatement  coa>ng  system.    The  difficult  access  to  the  site  due  to   the  in-­‐building  of  the  complex  meant  that  opportuni>es  to  revisit  the  drum  for  future   maintenance  are  limited  and  the  cost  prohibi>ve.    On  this  basis,  the  performance   expecta>on  for  the  works  needed  to  be  between  30  and  40  years,  with  minimal   maintenance.       The  high  profile  loca>on  of  the  SLV  also  meant  that  public  interest  in  the  external   presenta>on  of  the  building  was  another  key  considera>on,  with  our  client  keen  to  ensure   it  presented  well.    The  SLV  is  a  building  to  which  all  Melbournians  and  to  a  degree  all   Victorians  feel  a  close  nostalgic  link  and  have  a  real  sense  of  ownership.    


With a  degree  of  uncertainty  as  to  the  long-­‐term  performance  of  the  Copperas  and  the   degree  of  varia>on  between  new  repairs,  old  repairs  and  original  stucco  in  the  test   samples,  it  was  determined  that  a  further  alterna>ve  needed  to  be  inves>gated  —  a  similar   coa>ng  system  that  incorporates  natural  pigment  into  a  cemen>>ous  coa>ng  known  as  a   washcoat.    This  system  had  been  extensively  tried  and  was  known  to  last  well  in  excess  of   20  years.  It  was  also  able  to  provide  the  uniform  satura>on  between  new  and  old  cement   finishes,  and  to  be  mixed  to  match  the  colour  achieved  by  Copperas  whilst  s>ll  achieving   the  level  of  varia>on  that  could  be  iden>fied  in  early  photographs.     While  the  washcoat  may  not  be  the  most  ideal  treatment  from  a  conserva>on  perspec>ve,   given  it  is  a  varia>on  on  the  original  intent,  it  does  deliver  the  requirements  of  the  public   and  the  client,  whilst  achieving  the  overall  aesthe>c  intent  of  the  Copperas  finish.    This   system  will  age  and  wear  in  a  similar  way  to  Copperas,  eventually  returning  the  stucco  to  a   grey  render  finish  with  only  minor  fragments  of  the  original  yellow  colourant  to  be  found   below  cornice  ledges  where  protected  from  weathering.    

Figure 8      North  elevaZon  of  the  SLV  dome  c1914.  Note  the  variaZon  in  the  coloured  finish  on  the   render. Source:  State  Library  of  Victoria  


Figure 9        SLV  dome  with  washcoat  applied  to  render. Source:  Lovell  Chen  2015  

Figure 10      SLV  dome  before  commencement  of  works,  note  remnant  yellow  colouraZon  to  render   on  right  of  downpipe. Source:  Lovell  Chen  2015  


Figure 11        ApplicaZon  of  the  colour  pigment  washcoat  over  render,  applied  by  brush  over  surface   of  render Source:  Lovell  Chen  2015  


Figure 12      Trials  of  applicaZon  of  the  colour  pigment  washcoat  over  render,  applied  by  brush  over   surface  of  render  and  compared  to  colour  of  exisZng  remnants  of  Copperas. Source:  Lovell  Chen  2014  

Another complica>on  in  delivering  a  range  of  conserva>on  works  to  the  western  façades   was  the  degree  to  which  works  had  been  undertaken  in  the  past  (by  others).    The  western   façades  where  constructed  in  five  stages,  using  a  number  of  different  sandstones,  including   Kangaroo  Point  (Tas),  Heatherlie  Quarry  Stawell  and  Grampians  Sandstone  (Vic).    A  later   phase  constructed  in  the  1960s  comprises  precast  cement  and  rendered  masonry.    Many  of   the  repairs  of  the  last  30-­‐40  years  had  been  undertaken  using  sandstones  from  Sydney,   such  as  Hawkesbury  (NSW)  and  Pontville  White  (Tas)  (King  &  Weston  1997  pp  179).    The   composi>on  and  characteris>c  of  these  stones  are  not  a  good  match  to  the  original  stone   and,  as  such,  appear  quite  different  within  the  overall  presenta>on  of  the  building.    Other   repairs  where  undertaken  using  cement-­‐based  mortars  and,  while  these  are  not   discernable  from  a  distance,  when  viewed  in  close  proximity  they  are  generally   unsympathe>c  to  the  overall  aesthe>c,  and  have  resulted  in  decay  to  the  highly  decora>ve   carved  stone  details.    It  was  determined  that  limited  repairs  be  undertaken  to  the  western   façades,  acknowledging  that  whilst  the  previous  repairs  may  appear  unsympathe>c,  they   are  stable.    On  this  basis  they  have  been  leo  un-­‐altered  un>l  a  >me  when  they  require   more  substan>al  repair  or  replacement.                  


Figure 13        New  stone  indent  works  to  the  western  porZco,  note  the  use  of  different  sandstones  in   the  column  where  previously  stone  has  been  replaced. Source:  Lovell  Chen  2015  


Figure 14      Previous  repairs  to  stonework,  note  the  varied  colour,  composiZon  and  texture  of  the   stone  used  to  repair  the  face  of  the  cornice. Source:  Lovell  Chen  2014  

Figure 15        Previous  repairs  to  boele  balusters  where  the  rear  secZon  of  the  boele  had  been  cut   out  to  accommodate  new  concrete  upstand  for  the  altered  gueer. Source:  Lovell  Chen  2014  


Figure 16      A  complex  access  system  was  required  to  undertake  the  works  to  the  dome  due  to  the   lack  of  loading  capacity  of  the  infill  courtyard  roofs.    The  scaffold  is  suspended  from   the  dome  walls.

Source:  Lovell  Chen,  photo  Andrew  Latreille,  2014

Figure 17        Finished  presentaZon  of  the  dome  drum. Source:  Lovell  Chen,  photo  Andrew  Latreille,  2015


Figure 18        Different  phases  of  construcZon  in  different  sandstone  types,  note  unsympatheZc   repairs  to  the  modillions  (right) Source:  Lovell  Chen,  photo  Andrew  Latreille,  2014

BIBLIOGRAPHY King  R.L.,  Weston  K.S.,  1997,  Dimension  stone  in  Victoria,  Geological  Survey  Report  112,  Victorian   State  Government  Department  of  Natural  Resources  and  Environment,   Lovell  Chen,  2011,  State  Library  of  Victoria  Conserva>on  Management  Plan  Vol  1  

AKNOWLEDGEMENTS Dr.  Donald  Ellsmore   University  of  Melbourne  CCMC

Conservation of the State Library of Victoria : Case Study  

by Dan Blake

Conservation of the State Library of Victoria : Case Study  

by Dan Blake

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