There are very few books in English on structural engineering in conservation, writes John Fidler. Contributions to our general understanding by Jaques Heyman and Poul Beckman are notable examples, to which we can now add Giorgio Croci's well-illustrated and easily digested tome*, the product of years of experience repairing major monuments and of teaching architects and engineers at the University of Rome.
Like many of the best conservation engineers, Croci is more interested in studying and explaining the behaviour of historic structures than in complex models and calculations. Architects will appreciate his explanations via hundreds of line drawings and photographs.
Opening chapters deal with the historical development of structures and their deterioration. Subsequent chapters provide practical advice on methods of field survey and analysis and on ethical considerations of repair methods. After that, the book deals with settlement and subsidence, seismic effects and assessment of the many forms of masonry construction, with case studies including the recently earthquake-damaged basilica at Assisi.
As usual, there is more emphasis on damage assessment and risk management than on illustrating the ways to carry out repairs. We still await publication of comprehensively illustrated pages of scarf joints, straps and hangers, ring beams, ties and other engineering paraphernalia that form the palette of structural solutions.
A minor quibble is that although the Italian professor's English is first rate, the publishers could have helped him with better translations of building terminology.
John Fidler is head of building conservation and research at English Heritage.
* The Conservation and Structural Restoration of Architectural Heritage. Giorgio Croci. Computational Mechanics Publications, tel 01703 293223, 251pp. £126.