Matching the old with the new

Procuring an antique is only a start. Learning how to use it without damaging it requires awareness, says SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI

In the construction industry, each material has to be used in a particular manner. While red oxide flooring needs skilled hands, cement block work needs quality materials. Detailing is important for skylights, while weather protection is an overriding criterion for building with mud. The right kind of location and application is important when it comes to using antiques. It's not just enough to buy them. Where and how ones uses them decides the life of old carved wood.

Antique pillars

While walls can be built up to any height, antique pillars are short in comparison and therefore, they are needed sometime in advance so that the masonry work can match their height. Though they are mostly used for sloping roofs, they can also be used for flat roofs by adding a brick or stone base to increase the height.

Exposing these pillars to sun and rain makes them deteriorate fast. Also, ends developing cracks is a common problem when re-using them. It is better to leave broken carvings without tampering around much, since the new wood stands out, creating a visual mismatch. Matching antiques with the new is a critical area of concern and must be done so wisely. Concrete and wood may need a steel plate in between; a plain stone base may lift the wooden pillar above the floor protecting the base; metal paste may neatly conceal an awkward joint and stop water penetration; clamps and bolts may do a better job than nails and uninstalling carved four-sided capitals may help if the pillar has to simply meet a flat roof.

Natural materials

In the past, wood applications were made from natural materials, unlike today where chemicals seem to dominate. The former would not seal the surface, letting the material breathe and perform differently during varying seasons.

Modern paint, sealants and polishes make wood impervious, in the name of protection, and allow internal dry rot.

Hence it is imperative to work with carpenters who use traditional methods, be it linseed oil or handwork to ensure that the material lasts. They can also distinguish different type of wood and treat it accordingly.

Re-used carved wood

Building with re-used carved wood demands patience and sensitivity. Once built, they demand time and maintenance. If we intend to use antique materials, it will be good to have not only pillars, but also doors, shelves and such others. Needless to say, the doors have to be bought in advance to ensure a perfect fit into the opening.

Without such an overall ambience, antique pillars may look out of place.

Mix and match of antique elements with modern construction may appear bad, taking away all sense of history! Let there be visible touch of tradition.

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at )

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