The restoration was aiming to convert the officine and orangery of Liubavas Manor into a museum so that the buildings could be used as exhibits to the maximum extent possible. Conversion is the thing that ruins the historical aura of buildings the most. Therefore, we were doing our best to preserve the traces of time on the buildings as they were being restored. After all, it is the traces of time that are our most valuable possession.
The walls of the officine had sunk into the soil to a depth of up to 30 cm: the long front of the building facing the courtyard had subsided the most, while the settling of its southern corner was less pronounced. Concrete buttresses were installed there during the Soviet era to prevent the eastern and southern wall of the building from collapsing. Once the foundations of the building were placed on a solid ground and the walls reinforced with bands and the buttresses removed, the signs of time became evident. The long facades of the officine going upwards had been deformed so badly one might wonder if this had not been the architectural idea. Near ceilings, the building has expanded by more than 40 cm. The planes of the reinforced elliptical walls are in a condition that defines the state of deterioration of this cultural asset. Many years ago in York (UK), I saw a wooden building that had been bent out of shape by the passage of time, its front wall hanging over the street, and this image has been etched deeply into my memory. Now in Lithuania, too, we have the Liubavas Manor officine with an impressively transformed stonework wall that had been frozen in place.
To drive the foundation deeper, while digging under the foundation, the fattest layer of dirt up to 1.8 metre deep was found where the sections of the walls had settled the most. 16th century tiles, crockery, and remains of wooden planks were found beneath the foundation of the southern wall. The soil under the foundation has many layers as if to prove that a lot of historical layers of culture were buried there.
The northern wall of the orangery was ¬close to collapsing and has been supported with struts. The wall had listed in its entire depth and the efforts to stabilise it have been successful. Now walking through the door that mirrors the direction of the wall is quite an amusing experience.
The ceilings and the roof of the officine and orangery were not original and had to be restored based on investigation material. The early period was chosen when the officine is believed to have served as the Manor's treasury, and the servants and the orchestra, K. Tiškevičius tells us, still lived in the two-storied portal. A polychromic investigation has discovered as many as 18 stratigraphic layers of paint in the northern room of the officine. The massive open beams supporting the roof with the attic have been restored.
During the Soviet times, with the low ceilings installed, the height inside the officine's premises dropped by a metre or so. The height inside the ground-floor premises of the officine after restoration (measuring to the bottom of the beams) now stands at 3.9 m.
The northern part of the officine had wooden floor that were believed to have been original. Removing the floorboards during restoration ended up in a surprise find: a second floor covering the entire area of the room. Authentic red-brick paving was found underneath the Soviet-era concrete in the smallest north-western room, and an authentic fragment of the pavement has survived near the wide door. Over hearths were found between the small rooms and in the middle of the big room - those latter had most likely been built at a later time, with the room split with a wall to build an oven.
We wanted to preserve as many of the ample layers of plaster and mouldings in the officine as possible. Polychromic probes were instrumental in our efforts to reconstruct the interior of the building. We did not want to recreate any one particular solution as that would have meant returning to a layer after the original. The doors and windows of the officine and orangery were manufactured to the tradition of the era (note the thickness of the interior doors!), the doors were painted one of the original colours of the walls that were identified during a polychromic investigation; also, considering the first layer usually constitutes primer, the crumbly patches of plaster were painted the colour of the second stratigraphic layer.
A heated wall of the orangery has been preserved and fragments of the underground heating system have been uncovered for display, an 18th-century stove has been reconstructed on the basis of tiles found in the building.
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