Polygon owned VANWAARDE restores heritage documents for the HNI architecture collection

VANWAARDE has been assigned with the task of restoring and preserving documents for Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI) architecture, a collection of archives from well-known architects such as Cuypers, Berlage, Van Gendt and Bureau Van den Broek and Bakema.

Behrang Mousavi, General Manager of Heritage, and responsible for the State Archives, architecture, and the urban design collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI) in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is taking significant steps to improve the visibility and accessibility of this collection.


VANWAARDE is being supplied with drawings in batches of around 25,000 per year, which are then viewed, cleaned, restored and preserved where necessary. Among others, VANWAARDE is currently working on the archive of Pierre Cuypers, the architect of De Haar Castle and the famous Rijksmuseum.

Many drawings in the collection are study drawings and sketches, as well as detailed drawings for decoration of interiors, while others serve as inspiration for the final designs. "It’s always a surprise when we receive a folder containing new drawings, some that are quite often very special to work on." says a team member of VANWAARDE.


Diverse restoration techniques

"Often we are cleaning drawing paper to remove surface dirt. This is achieved with a ‘soot sponge’. Harmful tapes and adhesive residues that are still sticky are also removed. Depending on the type of paper, cracks are reinforced with Japanese paper, acid-free wheat starch or with Filmoplast R (a thermoplastic restoration tape)." says one of the document restorers.

After the restoration phase, drawings are then divided by type (such as charcoal, watercolour, diazo type, or blueprint) and then by material (e.g., calques, drawings, light prints). They are placed by size in acid-free blue covers and packed in acid-free poster folders, picture boxes or roll boxes. The drawings are returned for the digitization phase of the project, which can be problematic, depending on their size.



Once the restoration, conservation and digitisation phase is complete, further research into their history and origin can take place. Researchers will work on making less-known architects, with a focus on women, more visible, all of whom have contributed to the development of architecture in their own way.

Together the researchers and our technicians are adopting evolving restoration techniques in (calque) paper recovery. By organising meetings and presentating restoration techniques we can safeguard this important collection and continue to share knowledge about heritage and document restoration.


Working with VANWAARDE

Project management and communication with the project leader, Alfred Marks, are equally important factors and detailed parts of such a project. The logistics of batches of drawings coming and going and the efficient planning around the work makes the program even more exceptional.

"In addition to two other companies, we chose VANWAARDE because they are well-known for being extremely professional and competent during the tender process. The communication is very good; prior to the work there was an initial meeting and throughout the process, we have regular telephone consultations about the progress achieved. Concrete questions about ‘how to conserve’ are coordinated by email." says Alfred.

The importance of preserving and safeguarding the legacy of famous architects lies not only in making them available for exhibitions, where demand has since returned following the pandemic. Many students and researchers from the Netherlands and wider afield consult the archives for research and inspiration. Thanks to VANWAARDE, this is now possible again without unnecessarily high risks. As well as for restorations and renovations of the famous buildings, the original architectural drawings are also often used.

"The great thing about original drawings is that they convey a lot of character and tell you about the architect behind the work. For example, you can identify that someone was very frugal because the back of the paper was also used." says Behrang Mousavi.

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