Ruins - visible restorations and invisible values : the conservation of ruins and the planning of archaeological areas: rauniorestaurointi ja arkeologisten alueiden suunnittelu

Tuija Lind

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


The present research project explores the conservation and utilization potential of stone-built, protected ruins in Europe. It is based on the literature of cultural heritage and on field studies made over several decades. Much has been written about monumental ruins and archaeological areas; their history, conservation and plans for future development. The completion of the goals set for a given restoration project is however seldom investigated and the question whether those goals are contradictory with the site’s values not often asked. This investigation offers a method for critical analysis of the sites and the final completion of the conservation aims. Ruin restoration can be a self-contradictory activity. The ideal of romantic ruins is that their power lies in their very transiency and in the dialogue between nature and humans. The scientific value of the ruins is, in turn, based on the authenticity of the material, whereas the preservation of the structure involves erecting protective roofs and fences as well as removing vegetation in order to stop the decay. The romantic and scientific values thus require mutually opposite actions. The touristic exploitation of archaeological sites and the subsequent furnishing of new construction may also be in conflict with the values of the surrounding landscape. The less visible the archaeological remains are, the more they have to be explained to the visitor. The problem is how to do it in a harmonious way so that the information sign does not become the main attraction itself. Our research deals with this contradiction. It discusses how to identify and to simultaneously maintain multiple values during the restoration of ruins. To provide a general starting point, we have borrowed the characteristics of good architecture formulated by Vitruvius and employed them for the purpose of good ruin restoration: strength (firmitas), beauty (venustas) and narration (narratio). Ruins do not have a traditional utilization value as such (utilitas), you do not step into the ruins, you arrive to them, you contemplate them, examine and study them. The treatment of the landscape surrounding the ruins affects the visitor’s experience significantly. But, on the other hand, if no one visits the ruins, they will rarely be maintained. In order to preserve archaeological sites, they have to be re-used in some way (re-utilitas) and sustained (continuitas). The broad spectrum of different restoration methods is examined from two perspectives: firmitas, the structural durability of the ruins, and narratio, the story they can tell us. Examples are used to discuss the implications and impact on overall restoration works. Seven examples are analysed in more detail to demonstrate in practice the principles of ruin conservation. In the examples, the preservation of values is examined and general themes are discussed, such as the concept of romantic ruins, the spirit of the site, archaeological parks, protective shelters, furnishings and visitor centres. Séviac and Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges in France represent a type of archaeological site with modest physical remains, of which there is a large number in Europe. The example of Pompeii is unique, the Pont du Gard in southern France is an ancient testimony to technical know-how, while the castles of Raseborg in Finland and Heidelberg in Germany represent monuments of power. The Jumièges monastery ruins in Normandy are a result of destruction during the French Revolution, to which both the passage of time and skilful restorations have created added value. Even though the case studies are dissimilar in many respects, they all serve as examples to test our method, which requires an examination of the values of the site from several angles.
Translated title of the contributionRuins - visible restorations and invisible values : the conservation of ruins and the planning of archaeological areas
Original languageFinnish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Niskanen, Aino, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7554-9
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7553-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • ruin
  • archaeological site
  • archaeological park
  • monument
  • restoration
  • conservation
  • spirit of the place
  • reutilization

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