Interview on Sustainable Developments by Anna Fielding

WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON 'SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENTS'? SHOULD BUILDINGS BE RENOVATED BUT REMAIN SUBSTANTIALLY THE SAME OR IS THE RECONCEPTION OF THE INTERIOR SPACE SOMETHING YOU DISAPPROVE OF?

SAVE holds that from a sustainable point of view, the retention and reuse of historic buildings is essential - it results in the retention of embodied energy, the retention of precious historic fabric, which tells the tale of our past and roots us in a sense of place, and is more likely to result in the use of local skills and materials, thereby putting the profits of development into local hands and thence the local economy consequently helping create places that are economically sustainable.


The "reconception" of interior space depends entirely on the building. Historic buildings that are Grade I and II* listed (the top 6%) should only be approached with the very lightest touch, seeking to restore rather than enhance or alter. Buildings that are listed at Grade II give more flexibility but should not suffer the indignity of having their interiors ripped out to provide a space that might only be relevant or useful for thirty years. Instead, architects should use their imagination to work with the existing fabric to produce solutions that reconfigure internal space through careful intervention. Removing the interior of a listed
building then poses the philosophical question of precisely what does that building represent and what is the point of preservation. With unlisted buildings there is of course greater scope for alteration, but the question of originality remains (and of course, estate agents use "period features" as a major selling point)

IF SUCH DEVELOPMENTS WERE CONSIDERED A VIABLE SOLUTION TO THE CURRENT PROBLEMS IN PATHFINDER AREAS AND SO NEGATE THE NEED FOR WIDESPREAD DEMOLITION WOULD YOU BE BEHIND IT OR OPPOSE IT?

The Pathfinder areas demand a wide range of solutions over and above demolition, which is presently the predominant approach - a hangover from the 1960s and 70s - coincidentally many of the characters now involved in Pathfinder cut their teeth in housing departments in this period. Such developments could be considered as one tool in the box, and a helpful one at that, provided there is the market for such developments and that they do not alienate local people and the existing communities. Quite often in the Pathfinder areas, the key public interest in the areas is the exterior of the buildings and the familiar appearance of the streets and street patterns.

HOW BIG A FACTOR IS ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN YOUR OPPOSITION TO THE PATHFINDER PROPOSALS?

Conservation of historic buildings and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. In SAVE's first report on 1975 we wrote "Buildings - and not just historic ones - represent energy, labour and materials, which either cannot be replaced or can only be replaced at enormous cost. The fight to save particular buildings is not the fancy use of some impractical antiquarian.
It is part of a battle for the sane use of all our resources". This remains as true now as it was then: the massive waste of embodied energy involved in demolition, and the use of CO2 intensive materials in new build: for example modern cement production requires much higher temperatures than historic cements. Once the argument for retention is won, key is show how these buildings can be retrofitted to ensure that they are environmentally efficient in their operation: shared walls within the terraces ensure a degree of efficiency, but much more can be done

DO YOU WISH, ON THE WHOLE, THAT THIS OPTION HAD BEEN GIVEN MORE CONSIDERATION AND HAD MORE OF A ROLE TO PLAY IN THE PATHFINDER SCHEMES?

Originally Pathfinder was intended as a holistic rehabilitation programme but somewhere along the line, a civil servant inserted the words "mass demolition", with dreadful consequences for communities and their heritage. The Pathfinders have proven to be doggedly determined in the face of stiff resistance from local and national organisations, in spite of positive suggestions on alternative strategies for dealing with the problems having been put forward. Pathfinder is looking for big solutions for big problems, whereas the problems need to be micromanaged with a range of careful interventions, from proper policing to build confidence in areas, proper servicing of the areas to help change perceptions of the areas, and delicate management of the problems faced by the communities, discussing with them the best way forward, knitting back their areas into the urban fabric, rather than moving them out and putting the problems somewhere else. From the outset demolition should only ever have been a last resort - instead it became the first port of call, and only now are the Pathfinders starting to consider alternative options.

P.S. we also have lots of images of the areas including aerial shots

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thinking man said...
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