THE KEY TO LONG-TERM SURVIVAL IS USEFULNESS, NOT AUTHENTICITY
It is fortuitous that the opening of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden (pages 21-35) coincides with the release of Tim Burton's remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But that's all. This is not a hit-and-run initiative set up to capitalise on a passing fad but a costly and time-consuming venture, designed to serve its purpose over a period of several years. Its founders will only know if it has succeeded when the current wave of interest subsides and normality resumes.
Its architects have even longer to wait until they can evaluate their success. Aside from serving the interests of the client, Hawkins\Brown explicitly sought to address longer-term goals; to drag some decrepit, if delightful, old buildings into a state of health to allow them to serve future generations. This, of course, is the rationale behind any intelligent conservation project, and the Register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation (pages 12-13) would doubtless argue that any approved conservation specialist would have done the job just as well.
Having hurtled though myriad changes of use, this portion of Great Missenden High Street looked set to lurch its way through this century blighted by the ad hoc alterations and general neglect that are the hallmarks of such changes and of fleeting occupation. A straightforward structural restoration would have been a welcome short-term palliative but could never have compensated for the fact that these disjointed spaces have repeatedly proved to be too small or ill-equipped for modern-day life.
Hawkins\Brown has worked with historic buildings specialists on the scheme. But the key to long-term survival is not authenticity but usefulness. Time may prove that the most critical decision is the addition of a (contemporary) circulation gallery, which transforms a series of discrete spaces into a development of a commercially viable size.