Conserving constructively…….

04 Sep 19 | Nairita Chakraborty

Acknowledging the paradigm shift of “Heritage is rare and its values are fixed” VS “Heritage is everywhere and its values constantly change”, Iceni’s Constructive Conservation Salon intends to promote a shared approach to finding solutions, encouraging involvement of key specialists, stakeholders and local authority officers from the design inception stages.

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Acknowledging the paradigm shift of “Heritage is rare and its values are fixed” VS “Heritage is everywhere and its values constantly change”, Iceni promotes a shared approach to finding solutions to adapt and reuse historic buildings.

In 2008, Historic England (then English Heritage) coined the phrase ‘Constructive Conservation’ as a broad term for a positive and collaborative approach to historic buildings and sites, so that these can be managed and adapted successfully. It was accompanied by some exemplary schemes, updated in 2013, to illustrate the positive contribution heritage assets can have on our built environment, if adapted successfully. Most recently RIBA published a compendium of successful projects in ‘Conservation, Modernisation & Adaptation of Existing Buildings’, the theme of these publications being ‘Investment in the significant parts and adaptation of other parts’.

In practical terms, however, these have had little influence on the two extremities of the ‘planning balance’; a developer at one end looking to capitalise on their assets, and the conservationist looking to preserve everything that is historic. In this tug of war, several phrases have been coined ‘impact assessment’, ‘level of significance’, ‘harm’, resulting in a prolonged planning process and a piecemeal reactionary approach to conservation, contrary to its meaning of ‘managing change’.

Iceni’s Constructive Conservation Salon aims to address this ‘tug’ and disentangle the often conflicting specialisms to achieve a viable, deliverable and efficient use of our historic buildings and places. Started nearly a year ago as a ‘safe space’ for built heritage practitioners, the Salon has become a platform of catharsis for the challenges we have faced as well as an important opportunity to learn from our shared experience. Some of these challenges include the ubiquitous nature of heritage, and the frustration of interpreting it within a vast framework; the severe lack of resources within the public sector; specialist skill shortage… and so on.

Acknowledging the paradigm shift of “Heritage is rare and its values are fixed” VS “Heritage is everywhere and its values constantly change”, Iceni’s Constructive Conservation Salon intends to promote a shared approach to finding solutions, encouraging involvement of key specialists, stakeholders and local authority officers from the design inception stages. Through stories shared by participants, experiences have broadened their approaches to conservation, giving better insight to the viewpoint of the key ‘players’ in the design and planning processes.

As Iceni continues to host and grow the Salon with a diverse range of participants, the intention is twofold. First, to enable a shift in attitudes and approaches towards conservation, learning from different ideologies and shared experiences. Second, to provide a basis to key regulatory organisations like IHBC, RTPI & RIBA and policy makers such as Historic England to produce guidelines that echo their own notion of ‘Constructive Conservation.’ It is only through understanding and appreciating each other’s perspectives, we can ‘make the past, part of our future’.

If you interested in attending one of our Salons, please contact nchakraborty@iceniprojects.com for more information.

Nairita Chakraborty Associate,Heritage
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