Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Week 2 : Reconstruction of old water furrow and stripping off old layers

Week 2.

           It is the second week on site and the team has faced some interesting challenges. Thanks to our restoration expert Roel Jansen of Sandstone Contractors, we have identified and are busy remedying these challenges. It is exciting to see some of the layers coming off, as each layer tells a story of the museums’ past.

Old water furrow.

From the outset it was clear that water/damp would turn out to be the common enemy to the preservation of the museum. We identified a leaking water pipe, found underground in the south west corner of the site. As the leak was repaired a discussion started on how the original design made provision for storm water to run off from the site.

            Through our research we concluded that at the southern boundary parallel with Church Street (as was prevalent through most of Pretoria in the 1860’s) water furrows where constructed to channel excess surface water. The furrow also guided water from its origin at Fountains Valley and is still in use today. This formed part of an extensive water network running through the city in the early 1900’s. Subsequently the furrow has been closed and then covered up.

1900 Pres. Kruger expresses a word of gratitude to the American Volunteers Corps.
The furrow is clearly seen on both sides of where Oom Paul is standing.

            Concurrently with the excavations, preparing the southern boundary wall for water proofing, we searched for the remains of the old water furrow. At a depth of 800mm below ground level we discovered an orange plastic sleeve running parallel to the boundary wall. An electrical cable was also exposed, running perpendicular to the street and into the museum property. We presume that the orange sleeve forms part of a network of fibre optic cabling installed by a communications company. If this is indeed the case, they would have removed/demolished any evidence of the furrow whist trenching with a machine.
Preparation done for the waterproofing of the southern boundary wall          

            Currently we are busy designing a replica of the original water furrow using as example the furrow on display on Church Street east between the Sammy Marks building and the Sate Theatre. We intend to include the construction of the furrow replica in this conservation contract. The practical implementations include consent from the Local Authorities...

Existing water furrow on Church Street

Removing of paint layers.

             We were confronted with another challenge that arouse as we started to strip away old paint from the exterior walls. We noticed that the actual paint coatings consisted of approximately eight layers of paint. Enamels, a ‘Kentex’ layer, PVA’s and limewash. It was a challenge to remove all these paints. Three methods of removing the paint were implemented.

·         Using a paint scraper was unsuccessful and only removed loose and flaking paint.

·         Sandpaper only roughened the surface without any significant effect.

·         A LPG blow torch held 100mm away from the surface for 3-5 seconds made the paint blister. Whilst still hot, we used the scraper which effetely removed the majority of paint. Minor scraping and sanding then removed the last remnants.

                     With most of the paint removed, the mouldings in the plaster stand proud.

             Fortunately the presence of the ‘Kentex’ allows for the blistering when exposed to heat and made the removal process much easier. Kentex is a waterproof synthetic elastomer – polyester plasticised resin. As we studied the chips of removed paint we noticed that several colours of paint where used in previous coatings. One of the first coats of paint on the plastered area is a light green colour and at a later stage a dark chocolate brown colour was used. This proved to be quite a revelation since most of the old photographs of the museum are in black & white. I’m sure there is going to be quite a debate in the office on what exact colour should be used for the new coating on the museum.

Layers of paint stripped of the plinth on the east facade, expose  a dark, almost black coat of emulsion paint, covering a rich, ochre yellow colour.

A blow torch was used and consequently a weak area in the plastered surface was exposed: the plaster seem to be saturated with moisture and presents a powdery substance.

            At the end of week 2 we got to know more of the story of the Kruger Museum by peeling away some of the layers. We travelled back in time not only to discover some of the museum’s history but also that of Pretoria.

             I received some feedback on the origins of the Kruger Museum I felt it appropriate to include a short history lesson below. Be sure to check in next week on more updates on the restoration process.
While Kruger visited Europe in 1883-1884 the Kimberley architect Tom Claridge was asked to design the Kruger house. The brief came from Alois Nellmapius, one of the significant entrepreneurs and businessmen in Pretoria at the time. The brief stated that the dwelling had to be designed in the ‘cottage style’ and had to contain Renaissance characteristics. From this brief, it was clear that the dwelling would differ completely from any other dwelling owned and erected by Paul Kruger on his properties in Rustenburg and Pretoria. Rex is of the opinion that this brief also implied that the dwelling would differ from any other dwelling in the entire ‘village’ of Pretoria at the time. Rex noted that the design of the new dwelling marked the start of a new era in the evolution of dwelling design in Pretoria.[1][1]  

[1][1] Rex, 1962: page not numbered.
The history lesson is from am extract of an unpublished article written by  
Talita Fourie
Deputy director DITSONG: Kruger Museum

1899 Pers. Kruger sits in front of the Presidential House now the Kruger Museum.