THE CASE STUDY OF SAIDA LAND CASTLE

CULTURAL HERITAGE CONSERVATION IN LEBANON

 

Performing restoration works abroad as a company and not only as consultants was an opportunity offered by CHUD project, implemented by the Council for Development and Reconstruction of Lebanese Government. The objectives of the Cultural Heritage and Urban Development (CHUD) Project for Lebanon are: (a) to create the conditions for increased local economic development and enhanced quality of life in the historic centers of five main secondary cities; and (b) to improve the conservation and management of Lebanon's built cultural heritage. Therefore, this project foresees interventions on archaeological and restoration field that our company liked to seize.
Cooperativa Archeologia acquired and is currently performing conservation works in Saida Land Castle and Tripoli Esendemir Mill, while in a J.V. with Italiana Costruzioni acquired a contract of conservation and valorization works in UNESCO archaeological sites of Tyre and Baalbek - Baalbek and Tyre Archaeological Project 2- that will start soon.
The works project of Saida, Tripoli, Baalbek and Tyre is financed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italian Development Cooperation and is designed by the Italian group formed by Planarch Srl., BCD projects and Italtrend.
The difference between being there as consultants or performers of the works obviously is something not to be underestimated, and our presence as a company required a huge effort in organization and management.
Our cooperative opened a local branch and started up co-operations and subcontracts with Lebanese professionals, companies, and suppliers, getting a practical ability for working in this country.
Here will be briefly illustrated the Saida Land Castle’s case study focusing on the direct experiences gained.

THE CASE STUDY OF SAIDA LAND CASTLE
The city of Saida, known to be among the oldest cities of the Mediterranean basin, preserves an important nucleus of the old town, towards the sea, and was fortified by the famous Sea Castle to the north and, to the south end, by the Land Castle, until now excluded from the tourist circuit city and that was in precarious conditions.
The works in progress in Saida has involved a preliminary phase for study and tests that were implemented by Cooperativa Archeologia’s staff. They set up methodologies and practices of intervention then transferred on subcontractor’s company that is working under our technicians’ continuous supervision.
In that preliminary phase we detected local materials, suitable in order to get hydraulic mortars, using lime imported from Europe. Syria, a country more traditional and conservative than Lebanon about building practices, was a supplier of lime made through pre-industrial techniques, but the civil war occurred there obviously gets the import complicated.
We tried to find in local markets those products necessary for cleaning and consolidation, minimizing importation of chemical products that is a very hard task.
The training of the local workers to the conservation’s techniques has a crucial importance in order to complete successfully the expected works, in a border line between specialistic conservation and building restauration. This also corresponds to a more general aim of an initiative, funded by the Italian Cooperation, which is the dissemination of the principles and practices of the Italian restoration tradition.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL WORKS
As part of a wider project finalized to the conservation, rehabilitation and presentation of the whole Archaeological Site of Saida Land Castle, the Archaeological Investigation Project (AIP) has the following main scopes:
- To assess the structural stability of the Castle’s structures on the top of the hill, by means of investigations finalized to the understanding of the foundations’ construction system and of their state of conservation.
- To investigate the archaeological phases of the Castle and its supposed construction over ancient remains.

Although since the sixties of the last century has been suggested the presence of a Roman theater on which would have set the Castle in the Crusade and Ottoman period, widespread skepticism has dominated the debate and in the most complete survey on the Roman theaters in Italy and the Mediterranean basin - Frank Sear, Roman Theatres. An Architectural Study; Oxford University Press 2006- the remains of our site are not mentioned.
In fact lacked a detailed archaeological and architectural study of the monument, which the restoration work and archaeological testing has provided a new opportunity. Although priority is given to the conservative intervention and restoration of the site's accessibility, the project included an excavation campaign aimed not only at the structural analysis of masonry but also to better understand the archaeological remains.
The restoration is an extraordinary opportunity, which unfortunately is not always caught, to get, beyond its conservation, a better knowledge of a multi-phase site.
Although here we focus on the methodological aspect of the archaeological analysis in a restoration intervention, the evidence obtained confirms the hypothesis that the Saida Land Castle is built on substantial remains of a roman theater. It is probably the one built by Herod the Great in Saida, as reportedly by Josephus  (AJ  15.8.1), in a context of Augustan culture that was spreading in the Near East.

PRESENTATION, LANDSCAPING AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT
The cultural objectives of the design are to offer the visitor of Saida Land Castle archaeological site an aesthetical significant experience and to provide him a better comprehension of the remains on the site.
New pathways are harmoniously set in the archaeological landscape according to the site features.
At the entrance of the site is built a new ticketing building, hosting the visitors, almost completed. Part of the monument, a long vaulted corridor belonging to the North-East gallery of the roman theater, is dedicated to the exhibition of some archaeological finds discovered in the area, along with explanatory panels.
The discovery of remains of breccia corallina floor of Roman period in the North-East gallery is suggesting to review the project of new floor and the exhibition space and content that will prioritize the architectural elements of the theater and his hypothetical reconstruction.

STRUCTURAL STRENGTHENING MEASURES
The project involved strengthening interventions by underpinning structures and reinforced soil technology to give support to the medieval walls of the castle, in addition to structural consolidations on the damaged structures.
The north-eastern tower, which in recent decades had lost the upper part showed deep cracks. They were then made the sub-foundation and a buttress wall; the cracks have been restored and inserted in the upper, internal part of the structure a galvanized steel plate.
In the south tower were restored major cracks and it has built a reinforcement structure on the northern side. It remains to implement the reinforced soil and the tie rods of aramid fibers in the upper part of the tower.
The replacement of stone elements in cases of gaps or serious degradation of the stones was carried out with the fundamental contribution of local workers, able to realize stone elements and put them in work with great skill.

In the Eastern and Southern side of the hill, we observe the most severe structural problems. In this area outside the castle and close to the perimeter wall the archaeological excavations of the last century, in the feverish search of the oldest structures, have deprived the walls of the support and undermined the static equilibrium, causing collapse of large sections of masonry and dangerous subsidence that are accentuated over the years. The historical photos show us the dramatic loss of medieval masonry. The debris of the excavation replaced at partially restore the slope are continuing to slide down towards the valley and for the southern side of the hill we are still searching for solutions.

 CONSERVATION OF SURFACES
Conservation measures are finalized to rehabilitate the main surfaces of the castle. This kind of work, set after previous mapping, samples and tests, concerns a procedure including different phases and operations:
- removal of vegetation and biological attack;
- removal of deposits and encrustations;
- removal of improper joints;
- grouting;
- final consolidation applying chemical products on the surfaces.

The walls are made of local sandstone blocks, and given the site's proximity to the sea there is evidence of erosion and alveolization.
The castle was used as a stronghold during the civil war and there are evident damage of the improper use of the monument.
In particular in the North-East prospect are portions of walls with traces of burning and inside the North-East gallery tires were burned for a long time and the combustion fumes have accumulated on the wall surfaces, tenaciously adhering to the walls.
The restoration was preceded by a series of tests to determine the correct method of elimination of the black crusts. During this phase, it has emerged portions of plaster, presumably of the Roman period.

Various techniques have been used for cleaning, from simple washing with water to the use of ammonium carbonate poultice and microsandblaster. Where the previous methods were not effective hydrosandblaster at low pressure was used with inert of similar hardness to the sandstone.
Inside the gallery, after the first stages of restoration, has emerged an extended biological attack, probably due to lack of waterproofing. For this reason, it was decided to expose the top surface of the volt and to create a waterproofing system with drainage pipes that fall away rainwater.

[by Renzo Bozzi, Roberta L. Bianchini, Stefano Coccia]