St. Augustine’s Church, Huncoat, Accrington

I was just passing St. Augustine’s, my old church, when doing planning application site visits and couldn’t resist a photo. St. Augustine’s is a lovely grade II listed Edwardian church. It displays many of the qualities of that exceptional architectural era. Huncoat is one of the oldest settlements of Hyndburn Borough being recorded in the Domesday Book and still having a medieval manor hall. However, until St. Augustine’s was built, it never had a church, deferring to nearby Altham or Church Kirk in that regard.

Astley Arms P.H. Dukinfield Restored

My old local pub in Dukinfield has been modernised and restored.

When the scaffolding went up, I panicked thinking it was to go for flats. Well done Robinson’s for staying true to the pub and for a sensitive upgrade.

The chapel behind is the rare and beautiful Dukinfield Unitarian Church a grade II* Gothic chapel of 1838, designed by Tattersall and refronted in 1893 by Worthington. It has magnificent Victorian stained glass made by Comere and Capronnier of Brussels and a preaching pulpit that is so high you get vertigo just standing in it.

Mackintosh’s Hill House

I popped into Hill House while passing north of Glasgow. It’s somewhat strange seeing it from the scaffold like a big doll’s house. This is a wonderful NT Scotland conservation project. It’s full of hope after the GSA double disaster.

I just love the roof covered with small local slates which impart a lovely visual weight and texture.

Between homelessness and the FT’s How to Spend It, our culture has completely lost its way

Between homelessness and the FT’s How to Spend It, our culture has completely lost its way

https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/commentisfree/2019/jun/12/between-homelessness-and-the-fts-how-to-spend-it-our-culture-has-completely-lost-its-way?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WordPress

Conserving a Great Building, Heritage statements

Originally a house called Hollins Hill, Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington was designed by the Arts & Crafts architect Walter Brierley (Photograph by Peter Graham)

Heritage statements, appraisals and significance studies when properly done are meant to guide architectural and conservation schemes of all types. Unfortunately, they are often researched and written after the designers have already designed the scheme! Getting clients and architects to hold back while the research is being done can be difficult. This is particularly true where a new use is involved and everyone rushes to the ‘end game’ of designing the alterations.

Some designers trust their instinct with historic buildings but I have found that a carefully researched heritage statement almost always adds to the appreciation of the heritage asset and sometimes can turn instinct on its head. Whether the case or not, undertaking a significance study after the key decisions have already been taken makes a nonsense of the significance led process.

By way of example, with one great building I worked on in Merseyside, the designers had instinctively decided that the significance lay in the building’s internal aesthetic value and the design was worked up accordingly. Later, when the significance statement was produced, it could be seen that the building’s true significance lay in its evidential values and very specific and pioneering layout. As a consequence, a less expensive more interesting intervention with less harm could have been created. By then it was too late… the design fee had been spent. On reflection, the design team had merely imposed their own prexisting opinions onto the historic building.

Appraisals require rigour, dedication and an open mind. The time-served procedure of three phases of work, ‘survey, analysis, plan’, is the right approach, perhaps rephrased as ‘research, appraise, conserve’. In the heyday of town planning and the creation of New Towns etc, great store was placed on orderly and somewhat mundane survey and analysis phases to guide the actual design. The late town planner, Nathaniel Lichfield, produced a whole book just on a sub-stage of this process, evaluating information, which became a standard text of the time. In present day architectural conservation, ‘conviction’ so often has the upper hand but a problem is that conviction is simply a mirror of the experience and prejudices of the persons involved. Conserving great buildings requires more than this. Despite my own personal experience and convictions, I generally come out of writing an appraisal with a different opinion than when I went into it.

Great buildings are multi-faceted and normally need several minds to fully understand them. The creators of great architecture were almost always of a greater stature than the conservators which caring for them (let us remember our place!). Conservation is therefore a team game involving study, sensitivity and a reflection on both the particular building and the artists who created it. Strong opinions based on poor research and analysis will obviously stymie intelligent and bespoke conservation, as will the imposition of generic responses such as, ‘The Victorians always did it this way’.

It takes time for the true significance of a building to grow in someone’s mind. On major buildings, there needs to be discussion and feedback of the team’s ideas into both the appraisal and conservation stages. It sounds structured but it often happens in a very organic way.

Previous post in this series – Conserving a Great Building, Restoration