Friday, 28 October 2011

"Heritage + Development = ?"

Yesterday we were fortunate enough to attend the Scottish Civic Trust's conference on heritage, regeneration and development, a great opportunity to hear from the people leading the field in placemaking and civic pride.

We heard social, cultural and crucially, economic arguments for use and redevelopment of older buildings; historic building restoration uses fewer resources and creates more employment than new builds. It was incredibly refreshing to hear architects and government agencies commenting very clearly on the measurable benefits of involving the community in development of projects and programmes, beyond the superficial and passive notions of simply commenting on plans which have already been drawn.

There is a renewed emphasis too on energy efficiency in historic building adapatation, with grants currently available for buildings like The Sugar Sheds to explore the feasibility of sustainable energy use as part of any redevelopment.

From the Chord Projects just over the water in Helensburgh, through to Govan's redevelopments and the Govan Folk University and on to Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust...none of these are projects and processes a million miles away..all of these wonderful places and ideas are within half an hours drive. Those communities, agencies and architects have worked collaboratively to realise their shared vision. Surely we're not talking such a massive cultural leap to make similar things happen down here. Though obviously, what was clear from all involved was the time effort and energy that has been invested by all partners in making these ideas a reality. Here are projects which have developed with imagination, vitality and risk, daring to push beyond the minimum expected standard, and creating something all the more special as a result. The question we should ask ourselves and our civic leaders is not "why not here?" but "when do we start?".

More than anything, we came away convinced that such regeneration and development is possible when all parties involved are able to sit down respectfully and work together to be greater than the sum of their parts. It can happen, it can be done. Even here. And wouldn't it be great, if in the future, Inverclyde's regeneration of The Sugar Sheds was able to be recognised as an example of innovation and best practice in the same way that these projects and programmes are now.

Next, we're off to visit Out of the Blue through in Edinburgh, a former Drill Hall, now the centre of a thriving cultural community...

If you are feeling like getting inspired by bold new building designs in old spaces, you can read a great new document from Historic Scotland and Archticture and Design Scotland, "New Design in Historic Settings" which was launched at the conference.

An inspiring day, thank you very much to the Scottish Civic Trust.

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