façade gommage® – visitor-friendly restoration of London’s landmarks
“London is valued because of its first-class heritage and historic landmarks that are cherished by Londoners and visitors to this great city.” [London View Management Framework]
With 30 million visitors every year, London is the world’s most popular tourist destination. A city packed with iconic, internationally recognised landmarks, the pressure to present these buildings at their best is unrelenting. Ironically, conventional cleaning methods can all too easily dash photo opportunities, with disappointed visitors travelling thousands of miles to be greeted by a forest of scaffolding instead of an historic façade.
Thanks to restoration specialists Thomann-Hanry®, there is now an alternative.
In order to appreciate the future of restoration, it is helpful to understand what has happened in the past. London’s large-scale urban development of the 1800s saw the wholesale sacrifice of many of the city’s architectural treasures. Towards the turn of the 20th century, great swathes of the ancient city centre on the Left Bank were replaced by the prolific and profitable development of apartment houses. The Blitz laid waste to countless more historic structures and it was only after the Second World War that the realisation that our history should form part of the fabric of our future really took hold. The Venice Charter of 1964 laid out the foundations of modern conservation as we know it today, giving rise to a movement to cherish and restore ancient buildings – not only for those who live and work amongst them, but for those who travel great distances to appreciate some of the world’s most recognised landmarks.
Developed and patented by Thomann-Hanry®, façade gommage® has in recent years revived nearly 300 historic buildings as it has steadily changed the face of tourists’ London. From iconic hotels such as The Ritz, Sofitel St James’s and the Langham Hotel to landmarks like Hamleys, the Reform Club and Somerset House, many of London’s great historic buildings have recently been restored to their former glory by this revolutionary process. Without a single pole of scaffolding to obscure their view, shoppers, day-trippers and international tourists alike have been able to appreciate the architectural beauty of these fine structures – before, after and during cleaning. Where once a façade clean inevitably involved shrouding a building in scaffolding for weeks, if not months, Thomann-Hanry® are able to complete a clean within days.
façade gommage® is carried out from a cabin on a lorry-mounted hydraulic boom. The process disperses fine, sharp powders under low pressure across the surface of masonry, stonework and even the most intricate of architectural and sculptural details. Decades of accumulated dirt and grime are gently eased away and lifted off, revealing the surface beneath as it first appeared decades, even centuries ago. Up and running within two hours of arriving on site – and occupying a small streetside footprint – it’s an agile process that involves no chemicals, minimal water (used purely as part of the waste extraction and recycling process) and no scaffolding whatsoever.
In an historic city teeming not only with visitors but also its own populace, there is a continual challenge to revitalise the urban landscape whilst enabling people to move freely and enjoy their time in London.