From Grime to Sublime: Cleaning Masonry Buildings

Judy Jacob in workshop cleaning exercise.jpg

The maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation of existing buildings often includes cleaning the exterior surfaces of stone, brick, terra cotta, and concrete. There are philosophical, aesthetic, technical, scientific, and economic factors that should be considered when specifying materials and methods for cleaning. What is the masonry material, and what is the cause and composition of soil? Is the soiling damaging the masonry material? What are the owner’s expectations? What is an appropriate aesthetic target for the character of the building? Is the patina character‐ defining? Will a particular cleaning approach result in short term appeal and long term damage? Is the masonry best left alone? What is an optimum cycle for recleaning that balances the applicable factors? In summary, how do we characterize soiling, how should one clean a building, and ought one to clean a building, and what is the meaning of “clean?”

In October 2014, the AIA Historic Resources Committee, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Words and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation organized a colloquium at Taliesin West titled From Grime to Sublime: Cleaning Masonry Buildings. HPEF provided support through its Partners in Training program to record and post the event online. Videos of the nine presentation sessions, workshops and discussions are being posted below.


1 - Opening Session


2 - Standards for Cleaning Masonry Buildings, Part 1 - Mary Oehrlein


3 - Standards for Cleaning Masonry Buildings, Part 2 - Judy Jacob