After the tumultuous post World War II reconstruction of devastated cities, things started to calm down somewhat at the end of the 1960s. Slowly, people realized that the newly created was not always good. Characteristic buildings, entire city centres and venerable patrician houses - witnesses of the history and culture - had not only been severely damaged by bombs and grenades, but most of them were victimized by the new urban and traffic infrastructure building frenzy.
Due to lack of experience in the handling of existing historic buildings and the fascination with new construction materials, existing building monuments were restored in a way that severe damages reappeared quickly. Some seriously wondered whether it would be better to simply replace the old structures with modern, newly constructed buildings. Hence, in the post war era, the demand for residential real estate paired with the compelling drive to develop caused more destruction in many places than the war. New construction laws were frequently transferred to restoration projects. Consequently, failures were inevitable.
Similar risks were imminent during the development of the eastern part of Germany after the country’s reunification. In many cases, the restoration of an old building and its adaptation to modern residential comforts may be more expensive than the erection of a new structure using prefabricated components. However, this must not lead to scenarios where all that distinguishes towns from each other are their city limit signs. The sense of home and culture is contingent upon a community’s unique look. Both must be retained.
This insight, which arose from the second destruction of our cities paired with a sensibility for the creation of buildings that respect the emotional bonds with the region and the knowledge of how to work with new construction materials, caused a group of scientists, experts, technicians and individuals engaged in practical construction work to come together in Munich, Germany. This group of likeminded industry insiders knew the benefits as well as the potential risks inherent in the use of new construction materials. They discussed and investigated the subject matter, searched for solutions and found answers.
Founding History of the Association
In 1969, Prof. Dipl.-Ing. H. E. Schubert (TU Munich), who eventually became the WTA’s first honorary fellow, and his research assistant, Dipl.-Ing. D. Schumann, attended a convention on electro-osmosis in Vienna. After patiently listening for three days, both gentlemen arrived at the conclusion that the theories presented were devoid of any scientific foundation. Consequently, Prof. Schubert asked the scientific staff of his institute to increase its focus on building refurbishment issues. Henceforth, his scientific staff member Dr. F. Wittmann researched the phenomenon of electro-osmosis.
That same year, the Construction Agency of the State Capital of Munich invited two assistants of TU Munich’s Faculty of Material Studies and Testing to an onsite meeting at the Isartor. The plan of the Municipal Administration was to have the building monument, which was in a rather run-down condition at the time, restored to its former glory by the 1972 Olympic Summer Games. At the time, Dipl.-Ing. Schumann, who was already examining special plaster technology for building restoration projects, urgently advised against the performance of a restoration. He suggested the administration defer the project by around ten years. His proposal was ignored. Instead, a restoration company from Poland was commissioned and began to work on the project right away. It covered the structure with fresh plaster. Unfortunately, by the time of the Olympic Games, the structure looked just as pitiful as it had three years earlier.
The WTA’s actual inception took place at a completely disastrous seminar at the Bauzentrum München [Munich Construction Centre], hosted in the summer of 1976 by an expert from Nuremberg on the subject matter "Water, Our Buildings’ Enemy," which had been commissioned by the DHBV [German Timber and Building Preservation Association]. After the gentleman’s claims had been drowned out by the cacophony of the heckling audience, a small group of true experts among the audience remained and spontaneously established the organization committee "Münchner Kreis e. V. [Munich Circle]”.They all agreed that they would never allow such an embarrassing event to happen again.
In response to an invitation sent out by the organization committee "Münchner Kreis e. V.," the members, under the chairmanship of Dr. Helmut Weber, convened for the foundation meeting at the “Eulenspiegel,” a Munich restaurant, on December 15, 1976. Six other participants showed up with the obvious sole objective to prevent the establishment of such an association. The establishment of the association could not be conducted without interruptions until some of the individuals present had left.
Dr. Weber was appointed chairperson of the meeting. He made a brief declaration as to the type and interests of the meeting as well as the goals of the association to be established. He also found that enough members were present to establish an association and a unanimous resolution to that effect was promptly made. Subsequently, the statutes on hand were discussed by all members. A majority vote confirmed the name of the association - "Münchner Kreis, wissenschaftlich technischer Arbeitskreis e. V." [Munich Circle, scientific and technological research group]. While a resolution on the establishment of technical commissions was made, their staffing was deferred.
Another membership meeting was hosted on March 14, 1977. All eleven founding members of the Association were present to make resolutions on the now revised statutes and the final name of the Association.
After a prolonged discussion, the members present decided on the name "Wissenschaftlich-technischer Arbeitskreis für Denkmalpflege und Bauwerksanierung e. V." The presented statutes were approved by all members, who simultaneously confirmed their memberships.
Three months later, on June 22, 1977, the
"Wissenschaftlich-Technische Arbeitskreis für Denkmalpflege und Bauwerksanierung e. V."
was registered in the Register of Associations of the Munich Municipal Court under Number 9062 pursuant to the resolutions of the membership meeting of March 14, 1977. Consequently, the foundation of the WTA had been officially completed for the record.
A year later, in the spring of 1978, the Construction Agency of the Bavarian State Capital of Munich remembered the advice the former scientific assistant of the TU Munich, Dipl.-Ing. D. Schumann, had given back in 1969. After various onsite inspections, which nearly all of the WTA members of that era were involved in, the structure was refurbished again – this time under well-founded scientific supervision. Specific samples were taken from the masonry and examined. For some areas of the walls, in which the masonry structure was to be visibly preserved, Dipl.-Ing. Schumann developed special wet wash materials, which were used only on this structure. Refurbishment plaster was used on other wall areas. At the time, it had only been commercially available for two years. Hence, it would be fair to say that the Isartor in Munich was the pilot project of the newly established WTA. It is still a remarkable reference point today. Its most recent restoration has now survived 18 years without damages.
H. Ramesohl und D. Schumann