Accepted Paper:

Loam and maintenance: facets of an alliance illustrated with German half-timbered houses  


Dorothee Hemme (Göttingen University)

Paper short abstract:

By highlighting knowledge and practices of professional craftsmen and laymen builders in the field of loam, the paper reveals differential attitudes towards architectural as well as crafts heritage driven by the rediscovered building material loam.

Paper long abstract:

Loam and half-timbered buildings have formed a strong alliance in Germany over centuries, based on the plentiful occurrence of loam in many regions and the wide spread and uncodified knowledge about its use. Innovations in the realm of building materials in the 20th century provided more efficient opportunities to maintain the half-timbered house-heritage. They pushed aside the use of loam in the maintenance of these historic buildings. As ecological awareness gained in potency in the 1980s and as the harmful qualities of once innovative building materials began to surface, various actors rediscovered loam as building material. Simultaneously, the hegemonic discourse surrounding the maintenance of architectural heritage increased. Within this matrix, differential interests can be observed: there is a growth of standards for loam buildings; the slowly reemerging loam building branch seeks to monopolize what was once a "people's building material" and craftsmen and private home owners display a growing passion for loam and seek to reestablish both the knowledge about and use of this traditional building material. Next to the participatory imperative, this complex field is thus riddled with the imperatives of regulation and economic interest.

The paper draws on my contribution within an ongoing interdisciplinary BMBF project on experiential knowledge in craftsmanship between tradition and innovation. Guided by the agency of loam itself and the enthusiasm it is capable of generating, I will discuss the intermeshing of heritage management, heritage practices and a growing loam-market and modes of participation, creativity and contestation that arise within the groundswell of maintaining half-timbered architectural heritage.

Panel Heri03
Imperatives of participation in the heritage regime: statecraft, crisis, and creative alternatives (Cultural Heritage and Property Working Group)