Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Restoration - Part 2 - Plans, Images or Built Form?

I thought I would continue to look at restoration this week and delve further into the world of grey.

One of the greatest debates - coming mainly from the restoration of Donald Ross courses – is whether to restore to his plans. This is applicable to other architects too, but the main proponents to using drawings work a lot with Ross courses. Donald – or his associates – was well known to put together very detailed grading plans with clear instruction into the intent of what he was trying to build at each green site. He left us many copies of complete greens drawings in places like the Tuft’s archives and now architects have embraced that resource to help with restoration efforts.

Some architects argue that these are the best resource that an architect can have since the intentions and directions are all there for you to use in restoring the hole. Other architects counter that every architect makes field adjustments on site and we should have far more respect for the final built form than what is represented on those drawings. Their argument is that drawings are always the starting place for all work, but the real craft comes with direction – and change – made in the field.

Ron Whitten recently chastised the architects who stick “too purely” to drawings with their restoration efforts. He has pointed out that Ross himself rebuilt a number of his courses to keep up with the changes in technology and that Ross was a believer in renovation even with his own work. Whitten’s argument is pure restoration is the equivalent of an architect putting their head in the sand and ignoring the changes taking place around them. He feels that historical renovation is appropriate but should be “sympathetically” – which means keeping the character, strategy and style but not necessarily preserving the actual features.

Like all great arguments – there is no right or wrong – only a strong opinion from either side. So where do I sit?

I believe built form and opening day photos takes precedence over working drawings. If you’re going to restore – then it must be what was actually built. If you’re going to make alterations to deal with the changes in the game then it usually becomes more appropriate to sympathetically renovate. I find in very general terms I tend to do both. I like to keep most of the holes intact and look mainly for new tees so that I’m not altering the architecture just returning the old intended landing area. I prefer to leave all short holes well alone since they usually feature the wildest and most interesting architecture. If you lengthen those holes – often down the road the green becomes a candidate for a rebuild to bring in fairness. I generally try to pick my spots from where I try to gain length or improve holes that seem to lack some of the charm that others have – if I can do this using lost features or strategies than I’m more inclined to make change. If change involves new ideas – I tend to steer the club to accepting a shorter quirkier course and try to council the club against alterations. That’s where I sit on this debate.

To fully understand how grey an area this is: I am introducing some new short grass areas at Cherry Hill Club (by Walter Travis) but everything is based upon – wait for it – the working drawings! I have no photos from the early years but I do have his working drawings and enough other examples that support the idea. All in all – there is no actual answer to this debate – only opinion – and even that changes through different circumstances.

To Part 3

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ian, I have learned to stay away from the words "always" and "never" when referring to Ross' work. I tend to lean toward the "built" version and recently learned a lesson along these lines when doing Sedgefield CC in Greensboro NC. I had at my disposal a 36 hole routing plan, photo copies of hole by hole field drawings, and an aerial that showed major discrepencies from the above mentioned. Late in the master plan process we discovered the old blue prints / white lines in the clubhouse basement. They contained his hand written site notes and instructions matching the aerial to a tee. He removed bunkers that were constructed, moved others and added several. A defining moment indeed!!.

Kris S.

Ian Andrew said...

For perspective on the above comment, Kris is one of the leading restoration architects in architecture today. His example is an excelent one to take note of.

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