PRESERVATION SHOULD NOT BE A FINANCIAL ISSUE
Discussing the proposed demolition of Paul Rudolph's Micheels House in Connecticut (AJ 21.12.06), Isabel Allen asks if 'the time has come to establish an international system of subsidies for those who can demonstrate a suitable degree of sympathy for a home of outstanding architectural significance'.
Should there be payouts for those willing to live in a masterpiece and 'prepared to comply with conditions concerning maintenance and access'? By implication it's just 20th-century houses that are a problem - we seem happy to just say no to anyone wanting to knock down a fine architect-designed earlier house without offering them financial compensation.
No doubt there would be a willing queue of architects (and Twentieth Century Society members) should such a scheme receive funding (fat chance! ). However, even if it were at all likely to happen, the idea of ongoing funding for suitably vetted (by whom? ) cultural caretakers is a really bad idea. There would be some logic behind a one-off compensation payment when a building was listed - sometimes this certainly does restrict the future options for a site - but I can't ever see this happening.
Surely a major point of our planning system (of which listed-building legislation is but a small part) is to buck market trends; to say that as a society there are other values which we feel justify restricting an individual or organisation's development options - be it building in the Green Belt or a national park - or demolishing a listed building.
By coincidence I was reading this editorial as news came in of three private English houses threatened by development.
The work of Bob Harvey is not as well known as that of Paul Rudolph but he was an outstanding designer of private houses in the 1950s. Now three of his best works have huge extensions proposed for them, despite the fact that one is listed and the other two are presently being considered for listing.
These are buildings worth preserving. The local authorities concerned should be willing to refuse consent, and not feel that they can't stick up for good modern domestic architecture without someone being willing to write out a cheque.
Catherine Croft, The Twentieth Century Society