Grianan Of Aileach Fort Restoration
Posted 4 October 2006 - 17:30
We visited that monument back in 1989 and at that time we found it in great shape. Unfortunately, the subsequent "restorations" really made a disaster of such a beautiful fort.
This is one of the photos we took back in 1989:
And this is how it looked it 2005 (Photo courtesy Bettina Linke):
To follow closely the slow destruction of this fort, please visit Bettina Linke's website devoted to Grianan.
Below is an abridged version of an article appeared on Derry Journal and Derry Today:
Grianan fort restoration an 'act of cultural vandalism'
Internationally-acclaimed sculptor, Maurice Harron, has branded restoration work at Grianan Fort (Co. Donegal, Ireland) as "a gross act of cultural vandalism". Mr. Harron says that, as a result of the ongoing renovation works, the historic monument has dramatically changed shape. The restoration work, he insists, should stop immediately and expert stone masons brought in to "try to undo the damage already done." However, the Office of Public Works (OPW) - which is overseeing and carrying out the work - insists its 'intervention' will not only considerably improve the future stability of the monument but also ensure safe public access to the site.
The OPW says its conservation design team at the Grianan of Aileach site includes specialist archaeological and engineering consultants and that all work is being overseen by an expert team from its Heritage Services branch. Maurice Harron, however, maintains that the original loose-stone technique used to construct the pre-Christian stone fort - known as corbelling and giving the structure its "wonderfully subtle curved wall surface" - has been abandoned "and the walls are now being knocked down in 15 foot sections and rebuilt flat and straight." As a result, says Mr. Harron, "the round fort of Grianan is now a polygon. There is no blame on the workers themselves but those who planned and are supervising this carry-on deserve to be criticised. They are using contemporary building techniques and materials presumably in an effort to make the building more safe and functional. Grianan of Aileach was not built to be 'safe and functional'. It is an extraordinary, evocative structure which has survived for more than two thousand years."
In response to Mr. Harron's concerns, the OPW in Dublin revealed that, following a series of major collapses, the monument was placed in State care in 1904. A spokesperson said: "Local repairs were carried out at the time but, due to the unsatisfactory nature of the restored external masonry works and rubble/earth centre fill, sectional collapse continued at regular intervals." "A specialist structural engineering and archaeological survey undertaken by OPW in 2001 revealed the lower 'original' sections of wall and confirmed the reasons for the monument's instability. The original inward leaning and stable profile and line of the Grianan wall was established and the monument is now being restored to that design. The present intervention should considerably improve the future stability of the monument and ensure safe public access to the site," he concluded.
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Posted 9 October 2006 - 19:25
GRIANAN AILEACH FACING STRUCTURAL FAILURE
The current impression of an intact Grianan Aileach once again, will be just that. For now. And for a short time can be enjoyed in this state.
In a response to the Donegal Democrat the Office of Public Works states that, ”The wall tops are secured with a cement finish in an effort to prevent frost damage and interference causing stone collapse and resultant risk to the visitor.” - Literature about wall building advises strongly, that walls, in particular walls with mortar/cement joints, have to be finished with covering stones on top stretching over the full thickness of the wall. It will prevent moisture from penetrating the mortar/cement and rain water forming lines on the surface. When frost sets in the moisture will expand causing cracks and allow even more moisture to be trapped, leading eventually to movements within the wall. The mortar/cement joints are unable to withstand this pressure and fall apart. Severe damage of the wall is the only and irrefutable result. The top of Grianan’s wall as well as the platform show clearly the exposed cement joints with no covering stones for protection.
The statement of the Office of Public Works also mentions that, “Due to the instability of the
underlying surviving stonework modern reinforced concrete supports were inserted at the base of the rebuilt sections over the lintols of the internal passageways. All external walling would be constructed by OPW craftsmen to match Bernard’s design but with a sound central fill which
would considerably improve the structure’s future stability.” - At the south-west facing part of the wall, the same section, which already collapsed three times over the last six years, it is possible to reach inside gaps and touch the concrete. This is the part of the wall which is most heavily exposed to the weather. The above mentioned process will set in of moisture expanding under cold conditions, causing structural damage.
And there is another aspect to be considered. Grianan Aileach was built as dry stone construction, which needs only a very low foundation, because its walls are flexible and can therefore adjust to movement. The use of cement and concrete have turned it into a static or inflexible wall, standing on a dry stone foundation. The construction of a static wall demands a different and more extensive foundation.
None of these problems would have occurred if Grianan Aileach would have remained a dry stone building.
The inconceivable ignorance of basic laws of physics will leave Grianan no other option but to collapse again. Under the circumstances it has to be declared unsafe. Signs of immediate collapse have been missed on previous occasions and might not always be visible in time, since concrete is embedded in a 12” thick wall.
Years of restoration under the charge of the Office of Public Works turned a historic dry stone monument into a modern building, changed the outside shape as well as the equal width of the platform into an irregular one and blocked access to the passageways. It also makes viewing very much at your “own risk” and “from the outside only”. Safe distance provided.
And finally, there still remains the mystery of the missing stones. When cement and concrete is used to rebuild a former dry stone wall, than there are stones left, if the wall is to retain its size. Such leftover stones from previous work form already an impressive pile on the south-west facing side of Grianan. On the 29th September repairs had finished at the gate section but not one leftover pebble in sight. What leaves only two conclusions; Grianan has grown or stones have been taken away. The latter comes with compliments of Murtagh O’Brian, King of Munster, who billeted “the stones of Aileach on the horses of the King of the West” in 1101.
Posted 12 December 2006 - 04:06
The picture published above is cited as being an unforgivable mess and the walls are said to be straight angles rather that the the retention of a circular motif. i do not see the straight walls spoken of, neither did i find eveidence of such in the website linked. The 'mess' pictured above does exist and yet the damage is small in comparison to the size of the entire structure. Also the picture clearly shows that the center of the wall is not independent stones such as the original construction was said to be, so that means that the agency in question is making repairs upon repairs (which were upon repairs). It appears like we, as a people, are working pretty hard at making a go of this thing.
In the aforementioned website the author declares that a conspiracy is being perpetuated upon us>> she cites the collapse that occured in 2000 as being a structural impossibility. For one, I disagree; I have witnessed landslides/rockslides in nature that have the same appearance as the picture she published. Second, she describes the next collapse to occur (in 2003) as being exactly the same as the first>>a significant failure resulting in the collapse of more than 50% of the heighth of the wall. Therefore, to me, since the same type of collapse occured more than once, it is probable that such collapses are a natural occurance there, not only in nature generally.
Both of those collapses have been addressed by the agency in question<<I don't believe that is cause for people to feel "ashamed", especially given the attention that the majority of monolithic sites receive. And the work has proceeded at a decent pace, although a case could be made for haste being practiced if one cared to argue for the sake of argument. The work that was done a hundred years ago, the work that is heavily lauded by the author, took close to 10,000 man hours. And they didn't get it right the first time either. And they thought their work "would last for ages".
The posters say that the agency in question willfully let those unsafe states exist and willfully put civilian lives in danger.. come on now..do you really think that? I suggest that expecting such an agency to "naturally" perform inspections is unrealistic - not unreasonable - just unrealistic.
Sorrowfully, there appears to be only one suggestion offered for improvement on the present plan>>The addition of cap stones on the top of the wall. I will say that I do not believe cap stones would prohibit water from reaching the top of the wall (and the cement)- the cap stones would simply keep the cement from being worn away by the driving weather, although, granted, I, myself, am a layman... perhaps the wall needs a sealant applied; perhaps a sealant has already been applied or there are plans to apply one. Has the author inquired about that? And even if there will be no additional measures taken, I see many structures which are made from concrete which are expected by the builders to retain their structural integrity without problem. It is true that such structures are made while observing certain weather contingencies and/or curing methods, as was cited, but I see no mention of those observances actually being disregarded re the fort in question and I wonder if a certain amount of hype or paranoia doesn't exist here.
of course, I understand from where such paranoia might stem>>we love our beautiful heritage and monuments and we care for them in the way that we know how. and so, I hope the posters above will consider these additional thoughts as they continue to explore ways to help.
Posted 12 December 2006 - 23:44
You warned us that your reply has to be considered the writings of an impassioned layman. And I believe you fully expressed your point of view. However, Bettina Linke has followed the Grianan of Aileach "restoration" over many years and she has first hand experience of what happened (and is still happening) there.
So, we are still convinced that something went wrong during the restoration of that site. We live in the country where is the highest concentration of Art Masterpieces in the world, and we know pretty well that modern restorations sometimes may destroy an unvaluable monument, instead of preserve it for the future generations.
Posted 8 January 2007 - 00:14
Fortunately, I don't need to be an impassioned layman, paranoid or Jebus.
Between the official re-opening of Grianan Aileach in 1878 - 2000 and in accordance with the Office of Public Works' own record, damage occurred on three occasions:
29/12 /1989 Grianan of Aileach badly damaged ??16/5/1961 Grianan damage to be repaired ??14/4/1939 Vandalism at Aileach
Between 2000 and 2005 the south-west facing part collapsed three times and the previously enforced gate section crumbled in 2006. The monument stands on solid granite and no slides of any kind have ever been reported. If slides would be a more contemporary occurrence, then members of the Gardai (Irish police) would stop building their homes just below the south -west section.
Blaming Dr. Walter Bernard and his reconstruction seem unfounded, since it lasted much longer, before damage occurred. If he did fill the core with gravel (and there is no mentioning in his report) or if this was done on previous repairs, I’m not absolutely certain but I know of dry stone walls, which have been found in Germany of this design, dating back 2000 years. Try stone monuments and buildings have proven to have a very long life span. Staying in Ireland, the oldest would be Newgrange, built around 3200 BC. There is also an array of further ringforts, dating from around 1200 BC - 500 AD. The “ruinous condition” of Grianan Aileach, found by Dr. Walter Bernard and Godwin and Pertie before him in 1854, was caused by two main factors; the destruction of the fort in 1101 by Murtagh O’Brien and “in a great part to the labours of some gentleman, who many years ago (before 1854) evinced, more curiosity than care in searching after subterranean passages, &c.: since which time this interesting work of antiquity has deplorably suffered by the summer invasion of visitors from the neighbouring city”.
Turning battered or curved walls straight (Skellig Michael: The Fabrication of History) and in the process create slaughter amongst heritage site in Ireland has become a trademark of the OPW. And although a government body , they do not mind breaking international treaties signed by the Irish Government. As henscastle writes in his article about the Reconstruction Work On Skellig Michael on this site, the so-called restoration work “has led to considerable damage to the original structures” without any consideration towards international guidelines, which are the result of the last two hundred years of archaeology, mistakes made and lessons learned.
Even if restoration of an iron age fort (the original remains were marked by Dr. Walter Bernard with tar and as a result of recent work are all over the place) and concrete re-enforcements of the same seem to collide, I do not doubt the stability of correct build concrete structures. But as I pointed out before, a concrete (inflexible) structure needs a deep and solid foundation, a dry stone (flexible) construction doesn’t. As the Roman emperor Vespasian started to build the Colosseum from travertin stone or Roman cement between 70 - 72 AD this knowledge was already available (www.the-colosseum.net) and an altogether 13 metre deep foundation was excavated. The now concrete enforced wall of Grianan remains sitting on top of solid rock without any support of a foundation. No bad weather or other natural occurrences are necessary to bring down such flawed design. It is also reasonable to expect from a concrete enforced wall, as a measure of increasing stability and safety , that stones can’t be pulled out from such secure finish. But it is, particular on the famous south-west side, which is also splattered with fine examples of quality craftsmanship as photos show below. And these are the reasons that Grianan remains closed, at least until summer and fenced in, although work did finish in September 2006. The Office of Public Works doesn’t seem to trust their own work either.
Posted 4 May 2007 - 20:13
Re: National Monument Grianan Aileach, Inishowen, Co. Donegal
Neither Rome nor Grianan Aileach were built in one day. But according to the size of any project, it should be finished within a reasonable deadline in mind.
In the case of Grianan Aileach this deadline has become curiously flexible, unlike the former structure of the monument.
In October 2003, one month after the second collapse of the same section of the wall and only a few, short months after work finished on the November 2000 collapse repairs, "making good the poor restoration work done", the conservation architect in charge told a local newspaper, that "The repair work will be seasonal as good weather is required and is expected to take a number of years to complete." And he continued "Two specialists, an engineer and an archaeologist, have been monitoring and advising on the work currently being carried out on the ancient building. The stabilising concrete is being put into the core of the wall at the depth of up to two metres while the dry stone facing is then build to the front."
Dr. Walter Bernard, who rebuilt Grianan in 1874 after having found it "in a very ruinous condition", also carried out work on the monument only during spring, summer and autumn. But he finished four years later in 1878. And ahead of his time marked the remains of the original structure with tar to distinguish between the ancient and reconstructed part, a practice in use today.
In 2004, Cecilia Keaveney TD addressed a Dáil question to the then Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Tom Parlon TD, "if works carried out on a monument (details supplied) in County Donegal were in keeping with the dry stone masonry style that exists in the rest of the structure; if the concrete wall, that was constructed is considered to be a permanent job in view of the fact that scaffolding and danger signs are still in place; when it is expected that works will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter."
And the reply was, that "A scheme has been devised to prevent structural collapses at this monument. It involves the dismantling of sections which have collapsed or are liable to collapse and the construction of the embedded concrete wall in these areas. Reconstruction of the dry stone walls enveloping the concrete wall will take place as individual sections of the concrete wall are completed.
Work commenced in 2003 and will continue until 2005."
(Cecilia Keaveney kindly forwarded this letter. Question No: *96; Ref Nos: 20902/04; from Thursday, 8th July, 2004)
In 2005 the above mentioned section of the wall collapsed for a third time, spanning nearly one/fourth of the monument. As in the 2003 breakdown, forces between the concrete embedded and dry stone parts of the wall pulled the misconceived construction down, literally caving in under the pressure, doubling the breach in size each time.
It is not unreasonable to presume, that between an architect, an engineer and an archaeologist, they should have known better.
In June 2006 the gate section was taken down as a precaution, showing signs of collapse. The upper platform above the gate was concreted in 2004 and the same effect occurred again between the concreted and dry stone parts of the wall. Building work finished at the end of September 2006.
In November 2006 the architect in charge told RTE’s north-west correspondent, Eileen Magnier, that Grianan Aileach "is hoped to re-open next summer".
In March 2007, after complaints by the tourism industry, another local newspaper learned "that the work would be finished by the end of 2006", but "When work on the site started it was envisaged that the site would remain completely closed to the public for 2007.
However the team involved has made a particular effort to ensure that 75 per cent of the site will be accessible to the public by the end of April this year."
Six and a half years and three highly paid specialists later Grianan Aileach still remains under construction and a very doubtful one at that. Inishowen's garden walls are better built, in both engineering and finish.
They do have a foundation as required in inflexible walls (amongst them concrete enforced walls) and most certainly can not stones be pulled out of them.
Even if Grianan Aileach would have gotten the promised "dry stone facing to the front", it is still facing further structural failure. The original Iron age fort and Dr. Bernard’s restoration were both a dry stone construction and therefore did not require any foundation. As the Roman emperor Vespasian started to build the Colosseum from travertin stone or Roman cement (concrete) in 70 AD this knowledge was widely made available but despite this long experience of building with this material, Grianan Aileach, which stands on solid rock, has been reinforced with concrete. An error which would have not occurred, if those in charge of the monument would have taken the time to look at over 5000 years of dry stone building and 2000 years of combining components in the construction of walls and buildings such as mortar, cement and concrete.
It is highly regrettable that Inishowen's scarce resources have been so grossly mismanaged. One of Donegal's if not one of Ireland's finest, historic sites, the pride of every tourist guide, is left defaced and structurally unsound in a time, when normalisation through the peace process in the North of Ireland has brought growing and much needed interest to this part of the country.
Unfortunately the only possibility to make "good the poor restoration work done", is to dismantle the monument and to rebuild it to it's original design with not a trowel of concrete in sight. The falsely enforced wall of Grianan Aileach with no foundation to hold this construction will collapse again and again.
Well built dry stone monuments are known to last millenniums, amongst them the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Greek Parthenon and our very own Newgrange.
And visitors to Inishowen and Ireland do not come because of our good weather. Nor do they come to drive on motorways or look at concrete builds, activities, which I am sure, most of them have plenty of opportunity to follow up without travelling abroad. Ireland's natural and historical heritage is outstanding and unique. And that is exactly what each and every one of these visitors from all over the world is expecting to see. Concreting this heritage will prove in time to be a most misconceived concept regarding tourism on this island. With hardly any other natural resources left, it should be worth to reconsider the shape and form of efforts made concerning improvements on the past, present and future of this island.
Photos: November 2000, September 2003, June 2005 and June 2006
Posted 5 May 2007 - 21:01
I haven't found any stone in the surroundings of Grianan Aileach or seen anything in the fields below.
So were are the leftover stones of this National Monument?
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