15th International Conference on Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture


9 - 11 May, 2017
Alicante, Spain




The 15th International Conference on Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture (STREMAH/17) took place at the University of Alicante, represented by Prof Victor Echarri, and co-organised by the Wessex Institute (WIT) represented by Prof Carlos A Brebbia.

The meetings have been successfully received every two years since it was launched in 1989 at the University of Florence, and it continues to attract outstanding contributions in a variety of topics related to the built cultural heritage.

The conference covers a series of topics related to historical aspects and the use of heritage buildings, as well as technical uses dealing with different structural shapes and materials. Restoration processes require the characterisation of those materials, knowledge of the modes of construction and structural behaviour of the building. Rapid developments and inappropriate conversion techniques are threatening many unique buildings and sites.

Computer simulation plays an increasing role in determining accurately the stress state of buildings and its possible failure mechanism. They are also essential tools for the changes of their behaviour under dynamic loads, such as those resulting from earthquakes.

The emergence of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has resulted in a new field of applications of computers in Heritage Architecture. BIM offers the possibility of recording the entire life-cycle of a building by recording all information using the assets such as surveys, mutual properties, mode of construction, structural shapes, history of restoration and all other relevant information.

The Conference covered the above topics and others relevant to Heritage Architecture.

Opening the Conference

The Conference was opened by the Vice Rector for International Relations, Prof Juan Llopis, who explained the history of the University which, although of recent official creation, has roots in the XVI Century University of Orihuela, then the most important town in the region and the place where one of their satellite Campuses is now located.

The University of Alicante now has many students and a comparatively young faculty which is dedicated to research as well as teaching. It has numerous agreements with different Institutions around the world, including the Wessex Institute (WIT), which has organised several meetings in the past, as well as participated in research activities.

Prof Llopis referred to the attractions of Alicante and hoped that the delegates would have the occasion to visit the town and its environs as well as the main Campus of the University, which occupies a large plot of land in the neighbouring town of San Vicente. There the University, which has expanded considerably in the last few years, has room for growth to satisfy the educational demands of the region.

Prof Carlos A Brebbia opened the meeting, in the name of Wessex Institute, by expressing his gratitude to the University of Alicante (UA) for hosting the Conference. UA has, in a short time, become one of the largest universities in Spain and, equally important, one of the most dynamic, committed to become a centre of excellence for research and development.

Carlos pointed out the many existing links between WIT and the University, starting with joint work on mathematical modelling and now expanding to a series of new fields related to construction techniques and heritage architecture.

WIT, Carlos said, is an organisation dedicated to the transfer of knowledge at international level. This is achieved in different ways, such as joint research projects. In the past WIT has collaborated in a wide range of topics from offshore structures to bioengineering. Many of these projects were supported by EU and other Foundation grants, some by collaborating with defence organisations in other countries, as well as industries such as aerospace and hydrodynamics. The variety of projects is just one of the unique aspects of WIT in the creation and development of computational tools, which can be specialised to study many types of problems.

WIT, Carlos explained, is renowned throughout the world for having given origin to the Boundary Element Method. This development dates from 1978 when the first conference and the first book on the topic were launched at Southampton University. With the creation of WIT in 1986 the BEM research group moved to its current New Forest Campus, where the activities continue and result in an increasing number of applications for BEM.

Another important activity at Ashurst Lodge campus is the publication of scientific and technical material, involving not only books but the archiving and distribution of all conference and journal papers in Open Access format. This new initiative, as well as the archiving of all papers by Google Scholar, has resulted in an increasing number of citations for WIT conference and journal papers.

WIT also believes that it is necessary for the international scientific community to continue developing and launching new Series independent of the major commercial publishing houses. With this in mind WIT Press, the publishing arm of the Institute, has now eight International Journals in a variety of fields. The most relevant to this meeting is that on Heritage Architecture which, although recently launched, has proved to be extremely successful. The Journal, as the Conference, brings together contributions from scientists, architects, engineers and restoration experts from all over the world dealing with different aspects of heritage buildings. The papers in the Journal are also Open Access and hence freely available for downloading (see

Finally, Carlos referred to the importance of the Conference series in terms of bringing people together and creating networks. Most of the joint projects in which WIT has participated originated in discussions held at meetings such as STREMAH/17. The programme that has been running for a long time – one of our Conferences is now in its 40th annual version – continues to attract high quality contributions and generate strong and permanent links amongst the participants.

Carlos concluded his remarks by once again thanking UA for their support. He also hoped that the delegates would have an opportunity to visit some of the numerous sights in the most beautiful and friendly city of Alicante.

Invited Presentations

The conference programme comprised a series of invited presentations delivered by well-known colleagues, ie:

• “The dialogue between ancient and modern materials in the restoration of a collapsed ancient chapel”, by Antonio Galiano-Garrigós, University of Alicante, Spain.
• “Preliminary study for retrofitting of a historical wooden structure using base isolation system”, by Carlos Cuadra, Akita Prefectural University, Japan.
• “Reliability required for heritage structures”, by Milan Holicky, Czech Technical University Prague, Czech Republic.
• “Energy rehabilitation of facades ventilated using phenolic panelling at the University of Alicante Museum. Thermal characterisation of energy demand”, by Victor Echarri, University of Alicante, Spain.
• “Assessment of large deformations on Romanesque masonry pillars: the case of Santa Maria de Arties (XII-XIII) at Valle de Aran, Spain”, by Josep Lluis i Ginovart, Rovira i Virgili University, Spain.
• “Modernization of historic healthcare buildings”, by Jaroslaw Bakowski, Gdansk University of Technology, Poland.
• “Analysis of building systems and technological characterization of medieval shipyards”, by Antonio Pagliuca, University of Basilicata, Italy.
• “ ‘Augmented diagnostics’ for the architectural heritage”, by Fabio Fatiguso, Polytechnic University of Bari, Italy.
• “Prevention, monitoring and conservation for a smart management of the cultural heritage”, by Antonella Guida, University of Basilicata, Italy.
• “Modernisation of existing hospitals”, by Jacek Poplatek, Gdansk University of Technology, Poland.
• “Security and safety management in unique and peculiar cultural heritage sites”, by Fabio Garzia, University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy.

Conference Topics

The numerous other presentations were classified in a series of conference topics, as follows:

• Heritage Architecture and Historical Aspects
• Simulation and Modelling
• Heritage Masonry Studies
• Re-use of Heritage Buildings
• Monitoring and Damage Detection
• Prevention, Monitoring and Conservation
• Learning from the Past
• Modern (19th/20th Century) Heritage

Visit to Orihuela

A highlight of the Conference was the visit to the ancient city of Orihuela. Prof Antonio Galiano-Garrigos has been a consultant for the restoration of the many heritage buildings in town, some of these using BIM (Building Information Modelling) techniques. The delegates were welcomed by the City authorities upon their arrival and offered a sumptuous buffet lunch with local delicacies and excellent wines.

Following that, Antonio gave a short presentation on the work carried out in the town, after which a tour of them was arranged.

Orihuela is a very old town, founded at the time of the Visigoths and expanded during the Arab domination period. Following the departure of the Arabs in the XIII Century, helped to establish Orihuela as a major centre for the Christian faith, with the existing Mosques being converted into impressive churches. The presence of a Bishopric in the city drew a number of religious orders which promptly constructed their seats there. This provided momentum for the development of the city’s civil as well as religious architecture and as a result Orihuela a pre-eminent position in its architectural heritage.

The delegates were able to appreciate some of the most important buildings in town, including the Cathedral dating from the XIII Century and built in gothic style on the site of a mosque. The building has many valuable renaissance and Valencia artworks. The Sacred Arts Museum contains paintings by Velazquez and Nicolas de Bussy. The building itself is dated XVIII Century and was once the Bishop’s residence.

The surrounding agricultural fields provided wealth to many families who built their homes in the city, and contributed to outstanding examples of private architecture. An interesting civic building is the Portillo Palace also dating from the XVIII Century, with ornate windows and balconies.

Orihuela was also the birthplace of the Poet Miguel Hernandez who was imprisoned for his anti-fascist views and died in prison in 1942. A special Museum is now dedicated to his life and work.


The Conference provided numerous occasions for the delegates to interchange views and create new networks. There were interesting discussions during the sessions followed by exchanges at coffee and lunch breaks. The excursion to Orihuela was particularly effective in increasing the bonds amongst the participants. In this regard STREMAH/17, as all other conferences in the series, was characterised by its friendliness and goodwill among the delegates.

The International Scientific Advisory Committee met over dinner to discuss reconvening the meeting in 2019 in a suitable location. Several new members were nominated for the ISAC as well as a list of topics to be added. The meeting of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Heritage Architecture was also held simultaneously. The Journal has been very successful in attracting high-quality papers and we are well ahead in the number of issues already published in 2017. The success of STREMAH/17 will contribute to consolidate the Journal’s position.

Conference Dinner

The Conference banquet took place in one of the best restaurants in Alicante overlooking the Marina. The excellent local starters were followed by fresh turbot and accompanied by outstanding wines of the region.

The evening entertainment was given by a Jazz quartet whose members played a series of famous pieces, some of them at the request of the audience. The friendly atmosphere and beautiful surroundings contributed to enhance the occasion and to the development of close links amongst the participants.

Closing the Conference

The Conference was closed by Victor Echarri and Carlos Brebbia who thanked the delegates for their participation and looked forward to seeing them all at STREMAH/19.

Related Conferences

Islamic Heritage 2018, 17 - 19 April, 2018, Malta
Defence Heritage 2018, 18-20 April, 2018, Malta 
Urban Growth 2018, 8 - 10 May, 2018, Alicante, Spain