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Evolutionism

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Marcus Lee’s opinion piece on the future status of buildings like Richard Rogers’ Lloyd’s Building (AJ 31.01.08) concluded: ‘Buildings need to change or they will decline. We should ensure that the protective blanket of listing provides security, not suffocation.’ Spot on.
Our history is reflected and presented in the changes we have made to places, and to individual buildings, over the centuries. To prevent further change would be to deny the continuity of history. The design of any new building requires an understanding and appreciation of context.
Of course, a building that was designed to be flexible should retain that flexibility, but we can go further than that. Almost all of our historic buildings have been modified to some extent, and in many cases their adaptation is an important component of their historic significance. Designations that protect historic importance should allow adaptation not only to ensure that they stay in use, but because it provides the opportunity to add a further layer of contemporary character. Recognition of historic significance is not the limit of a building’s evolution. Rather it is the starting for point for constructive conservation – valuing what we’ve inherited and adding our own informed and intelligent contribution to the heritage of the future.

Steve Bee, director of planning and development, English Heritage
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