SHAKER ARCHITECTURAL MATERIALS AND CRAFTSMANSHIP:
This work is an investigation into the state-of-the-art of architectural conservation, from an international and interdisciplinary perspective. It explores issues, methodologies, and tools applicable to heritage resource assessments - from an architectural conservators point of view - and its aim is to generate appropriate approaches, methodologies and tools to holistically assess both the tangible and intangible aspects of significant architecture from the past.
Based on the authors own experience, this thesis presents the results of an internationally recognized preservation project; the Shaker Museum and Library, Mount Lebanon Project at Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, New Lebanon, New York, USA a National Historic Landmark District and the physical and spiritual center of the Shaker culture in America. The Mount Lebanon Project is designed as an extensive multidisciplinary conservation project, including the study, interpretation, restoration and adaptive reuse of some of the most important remaining Shaker buildings in the United States to house the new Shaker Museum and Library, including a national-level educational institution named The American Center for Shaker Culture (ACSC).
In America, the Shakers were the pioneers of the principles of form and function advocated e.g. by John Ruskin, Louis Sullivan and the Arts and Crafts Movement, and they are known for their simplicity and beauty of their architecture, their fine craftsmanship, innovative utilitarian products and design. The principles and rules set up by the Central Minstry at Mount Lebanon, the head of Shaker leadership, gave birth to a new design ideology and the distinctive Shaker Style principles that were later adopted by all Shaker communities. The surviving buildings and landscape at Mount Lebanon represent the history of a unique religion and one of the most successful experiments in utopian living initiated in the United States.
The study takes a broad approach and include both the theory and procedures involved in the assessement of architectural heritage resources, including Shaker architecture and material culture. By using a case study as an illustrative example - i.e. the Second Meetinghouse at the Church Family, Mount Lebanon - the main focus is on theory-based interpretation of historic properties, based on the forensic investigation, analyses and interpretation of mute material evidence, including historic documentation and architectural fabric, studied both in the field and in the laboratory. The Second Meetinghouse, built in 1824, is recognized as one of the most important Shaker buildings in America and the symbol of Shaker culture, religion and ingenuity. The building is also considered one of the most significant historic structures in New York State. In addition to assessing the tangible dimensions of this important structure, a conceptual framework and design model was developed to include also the intangible, socio-physical dimensions and patterns within the structure in context (e.g. traditional craftsmanship) - both within Mount Lebanon and the Shaker culture as a whole - and its meaning.
The Mount Lebanon Project
Shaker Museum and Library
Mount Lebanon Shaker Society