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Tender loving care is recipe for conservation

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Your editorial correctly quotes me as suggesting that not all architects should be let loose on historic buildings (AJ 23.5.02).

Most architects take a responsible approach to conservation work but, it has to be said, not always a well-informed one.

Some of the most interesting architects can bring great things to the creative re-use of historic buildings, as Norman Foster did with Julian Harrap at Burlington House a decade ago, and Richard Murphy has recently done with Simpson & Brown at Stirling's Tolbooth (AJ 4.4.02). In both these cases, the historic building architect played a vital role. Eric Parry and Eva Jiricna are other masters of inspired intervention.

I would hate to leave the impression that only a certain breed of conservation architects should work on historic buildings, or that architects should be classified by building type, a stultifying attitude. However, our built heritage is precious and too easily wrecked by ignorance or arrogance. Whether it is by natural selection or by certification, there should be recognition that not all of us are suitably equipped or steeped in the philosophy that was so well expressed by William Morris in his SPAB manifesto.

It is an important debate that will no doubt run and run, and maybe what is most needed is the glorification of 'tender loving care' projects like Newhailes, (pictured) and good examples of where new and old have been shown to work well together. I am sure we can rely on the AJ to keep featuring them.

George Ferguson, Acanthus Ferguson Mann (RIBA president elect)

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