Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Western and Eastern Building Conservation Philosophies: Perspectives on Permanence and Impermanence

Forster, Alan Mark; Thomson, Derek; Richards, Kendall; Pilcher, Nick; Vettese, Sam


Alan Mark Forster

Derek Thomson

Kendall Richards


In this conceptual paper, we illuminate Western building conservation philosophy practice with insights into Eastern conservation philosophy and associated aesthetic understanding. We frame dialogue recognising individual and societal perspectives on treatments to buildings that attempt to attain ‘permanence’ or 'impermanence’ in form, fabric, and artefact. Although not expressly sharing origins, Eastern and Western conservation philosophies practically yield commensurate or quasi approaches in intervention. These similarities have not been notably articulated before, and reveal meaningful insights for decision heuristics and guidance fundamental for repair scheme design and intervention. Western, pattern-based views relating to philosophical reasons around the impossibility of perfection, or ‘correctness’ in physical building form resonate with Eastern views supported by Kiku Kiwari. Also, universality in acceptance of Western Patina and Eastern Wabi-Sabi, and Eastern Kintsugi and Western legible fabric repair convey overt signals of philosophies beyond technical performance. Moreover, we find Western bias towards ‘tangibility’, and greater appreciation of ‘intangibility’ in Eastern approaches that are culturally enriching and go beyond mere retention of fabric and architectural form, linking building memory with territory. We suggest potential cross-fertilisation of thinking to create an environment of greater cultural understanding of the motives, thoughts and practices in East and West.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 15, 2018
Online Publication Date Aug 13, 2018
Publication Date 2019
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2018
Publicly Available Date Aug 14, 2019
Journal International Journal of Architectural Heritage
Print ISSN 1558-3058
Electronic ISSN 1558-3066
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 6
Pages 870-885
Keywords Building philosophies; Western and Eastern; Permanence and Impermanence
Public URL
Contract Date Jun 21, 2018


Western and Eastern Building Conservation Philosophies: Perspectives on Permanence and Impermanence (706 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article to be published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Architectural Heritage on 13 August 2018, available online:

You might also like

Downloadable Citations