When I travelled to the UK and Europe as an architectural student, I was drawn to the old buildings and the beautiful streets. I just fell in love with the old look and feel of the buildings and thought that everything around me had been there for hundreds of years.
It actually took me a few years to start noticing the subtle differences in older buildings and the new buildings that were built to look old and it wasn’t until I really started working on historic buildings that I noticed the subtleties and clues that give away their age. There are lots of reasons you might design a building to look old, for example, if it is within the curtilage of a listed building or planning stipulated specific requirements in that area, but that is for another discussion…
So for those of you who at first glance think that all the buildings are old, here are a few tricks and tips to start checking the age of a building:
The Overall Building Materials
The first place to start with are the overall building materials. Concrete was invented around the mid 1850’s and didn’t really start getting used in domestic buildings until around the 1920’s.
My favourite thing to look at are the bricks! Original bricks are usually cut by hand and irregular sizes. This gives a building a real unique look that a new building will struggle to achieve with regular spaced mortar and regular bricks.
The Windows & Doors
Most original windows & doors would have been made from lead light/metal or timber. Historic buildings usually have to replace like for like to keep the look of the building, but in some instances you see newer UPVC or aluminium windows used to replace the original windows. This is why if the windows don’t give it away at first glance, I usually try to look at some other areas of the building that might give it away.
This is a little bit simplistic, but you don’t need to know too much about building construction to see if a gutter is metal or not. Also most original buildings would have been built with local materials, so have a look around the building and see if the roof material is similar to the ones around it.
This is a huge topic for me, so I really tried to keep it short and not too archi or technical. It is just one of the things I geek over when I travel to little villages in England, Europe, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia Scotland and Ireland.
See if you can spot one of these buildings and explain why you think it is new, not old.