Restorationism or conservationism


Do you know the difference between restorationism and conservationism?

Over the centuries and with the passage of time, many buildings with an incredible story have come to our hands in very curious ways and with an incredible past.

However, not all constructions have reached us complete or intact, since the elapsing of time, wars, earthquakes, wind, rain, volcanoes or simply the mere speculation of their pieces.

We have made human being conserve and preserve the past, so that in the present, and in the future, you can contemplate some wonderful creations for your ancestors. 

This has result in several ways of preserving places; there are especially two totally different and opposite ways that are, restorationism and conservationism.

The first intended to complete the building, even if it involved inventing or adding.



For this restorationist trend, original shabby parts have to be moved or removed in order to have a complete view of the whole.

In the monumental complex of the Alhambra, one of the greatest exponents of restorationism has been Modesto Cendoya.

He intervened between 1907-1923, contributing to a personalist aesthetic.

One of his most important performances was the addition of a round Persian-type domes in the famous courtyard of the Lions (which is pictured in the photograph), which, rightly, were removed, shortly after.

However, the other trend, the conservationist, is on the opposite pole.

It is based on consolidating, preserving and maintaining what is original, as much as possible.


In this way, we try to preserve what has remained, but respecting the passage of time and the vicissitudes of the history of buildings.

From this other theory, the highest representative was Leopoldo Torres Balbás.

He worked in the Alhambra and in Granada between the years (1923-1936).

We are in debt with this this magnificent architect due to his great success at maintaining the original, little or much, that would have lasted.

To the figure of Leopoldo Torrés Balbás we will dedicate our next blog post. Since his figure is currently applauded and valued for being a great visionary in the protection of monuments and works of art.


We also want to include other figures that also worked in the monumental complex of the Alhambra.

Although, they are the oldest, from the 18th century, such as the Contreras dynasty: José, Rafael and Mariano.

José Contreras (1826 -1847) was occupied in fortification works of the wall, since the Napoleonic troops a few years ago, in 1812 they had destroyed the Alhambra medina with gunpowder.

This caused the loss of 8 towers of the enclosure, a large canvas wall, and all the houses, workshops, industries and mansions of the Medina.

His son, Rafael Contreras (1826-1890), did not have the solid architect training, as his father did, but he was a plasterer.

We can imagine what his intervention meant.

Unfortunately, with him many original stucco were lost and, as an ornate restorer, he invented and created according to this erroneous criteria.

Finally, his son Mariano (1853-1913) succeeded him as an architect-conservative and who continued his work as his father and grandfather did.


As a summary, although the topic is much more complex.

We can conclude by indicating that current trends are to preserve the original minimum that exists, consolidating it by using harmless materials.

The restorations have to be reversible, that is, if we had to remove them, we would find the pieces in the original state in which they were.

Preserving, restoring, consolidating and protecting the original is the current tendency to preserve to the fullest all the legacy of the past received.

  • We hope that you have enjoyed reading our article today: restorationism or conservationism.


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