Every building tells a story

Berends pen sketch
Why preserve an old, tumbledown cottage? Why save something that over the years has been quietly deteriorating in a churchyard in a small country village?

I asked this question of Berend Hoogendijk, a Dutch artchitect who specializes in heritage buildings. Much of his work has been on buildings centuries old, but he has also recently worked in Chile, helping to preserve wooden buildings first built by early German pioneers. He’s taken a keen interest in our Pug cottage, and the work we are doing to save it. The beautiful pen sketch is his work.

Old buildings, he says, give layers of meaning to our surroundings. They put our lives in a broader historical context. We realize we are part of many things that have come before us. Old buildings give importance to a place because they remind us that people have lived and worked and found meaning in these places. Still today, our lives are shaped by the patterns of people who lived long ago.

Berend enjoys researching the history of historic buildings and says it is like “above-ground archeology”. With the buildings still in place, it is possible to find out so much more. We can learn not only about the building materials and techniques, but also about the people who built them. What skills did they have? What were their lives like, and how did they use the space? What was important to them?

Grand buildings are more likely the ones that make it to our time. Buildings that show the lives of simple people are often left to fall down. But these buildings have an important story to tell.

In the case of our pug cottage, the building shows a method of building and living that was brought all the way from Silesia. It is a rare example in Australia of many of the techniques used, and the fact that house and barn are combined in one dwelling. This is why it is on the South Australian Heritage Register. And of course, for us it is important because it is a big part of our family history. We have roots there. The story of this cottage is also our story.