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SG201 Program A

Restoration of Traditional Masonry Buildings in Italy

3 Units
Instructor: Prof. Nikolas Vakalis
Assistant: Dr. Emanuela Grifoni


Mornings: Lectures 1.5 hours (4 weeks)
Afternoons: 4 hours field work (2 weeks restoring stone work of the facade of the Church of San Carlo in San Gemini)

Course Description

This course introduces students to restoration of historic buildings in Italy. It explores the traditional materials and techniques used to create the buildings and the artwork that is integral to their structure, it also examines the various agents of deterioration that, over time, damage the materials and the different approaches to their restoration and conservation.

The course investigates such traditional building materials as stone, mortars, cements, architectural ceramics, wood and architectural metals. It also examines the materials and methods used in the artwork and decorations, such as fresco painting, secco murals, painting on wood panels, gilding, stone and wood sculpture, decorative plasters, mosaics and stained glass.

The course combines theoretical learning in the classroom with a hands-on experience in the field. As part of the course students will be working on our present field project: the restoration of the Church of Santa Maria Incertis (San Carlo) a 13th century church in San Gemini.

Course Objectives

The objectives for this course are to introduce students planning a career in restoration to the field, and to offer a useful overview of the process and problematic examples of restoration to students involved in other aspects of the process of conservation and historic preservation. This course is aimed at students of Restoration and Conservation, Historic Preservation, Architecture, Art, Art History, Cultural History, Engineering, Anthropology, Archaeology and Museum Studies.

Summary of Lecture Content

Porous Materials

Natural Stones

  • Geological Formation

Igneous rocks

Sedimentary rocks

Metamorphic rocks

  • Stone carving technology



Working processes

  • Traditional Uses in Architecture

  • Traditional Uses in Art

  • Decay Processes





Biological attacks (Bio-deterioration)

Anthropic causes

  • Preservation/Conservation, Restoration and maintenance (prevention)

Methods of restoration


Joining parts


Chemical-mechanical action (misting water spray)

Filling gaps


Artificial Stones: Plaster and Mortars



Aerial lime

Hydraulic lime


  • Aggregates

Natural sands

Crushed stones



Crushed bricks and others

Afternoon Workshop

Restoring the façade of the Oratory of San Carlo in San Gemini, a small church built in phases from the 13th to the 15th centuries. The work will include:

  • Treating stone with biocide

  • Stone cleaning

  • Consolidation of stone where necessary

  • Removal of inappropriate mortars

  • Pointing stone work with hydraulic lime mortars

  • Treatment of stone with sealers

  • Applying washes where necessary

Description of Assignments

READINGS: Reading list supplied with acceptance to the program.

Field work: Complete various assignments that are given as part of the field project
Term paper #1: 8 page paper on a topic to be assigned
Term paper #2: 8 page paper on a topic to be assigned (graduate students only)
Exam: mixed format – quiz and essay questions

Earlier Event: May 27
SG204A Program C
Later Event: June 23
FT1 Intersession Field Trip