Monday, 18 May 2009

"Constructive Conservation"

Park Hill Estate, Sheffield - image source

English Heritage is an excellent 4-part BBC series following the work of English Heritage in preserving four major heritage sites in England: the Jacobean mansion Apethorpe Hall; the Park Hill Estate housing scheme, Sheffield, dating from 1961; the 16th Century garden at Kenilworth Castle; and King's Cross railway station in London.

The show captures fairly well the pressures faced on all sides: English Heritage have to balance improvement of the sites in their charge with the retention of the original features and character, architects and conservation engineers have to work within fairly strict conservation boundaries while allowing their own creativity and conceptions of each project to flourish, and of course all the projects now face the daunting challenge of the global recession.

And of course, any plans to modernise existing buildings will run into controversy - writing in the Guardian, Owen Hatherly is not sure English Heritage have gotten it right with their work on Park Hill:

"This astonishing structure is a battered remnant of a very different country, one that briefly turned housing for working people into futuristic monuments rather than shamefaced hutches. The ideologies of regeneration and heritage, when applied to the very different ethics of new brutalism, can only destroy the thing they claim to love."

The four episodes of English Heritage are available on the BBC's iPlayer until Friday 22nd May. Well worth a look: click here.

There is also a profile of each project on the English Heritage site: click here.)

BBC iPlayer: English Heritage (4 episodes)
English Heritage: English Heritage at Work
English Heritage: Park Hill - Constructive Conservation in Practice
The Guardian: Park Hill "in danger of losing what makes it special" (Owen Hatherly, 2nd May 2009)

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