Continuing the annual reviews of our practice areas of interest, it was the turn of our Conservation CoG on Monday. Previously we have described our architectural assessment procedure having at its heart, setting and context circumscribed by a circle representing conservation.
By this notation, we seek to ensure that every project we assess in terms of its site and setting passes through an intellectual filter that ensures the physical and cultural setting is scrutinised in terms of its historic and contemporary significance.
Intuition and intellect merge in this process and perhaps what surprises us most is that this study tends to liberate rather than restrict our potential action. Key to that understanding is the non-judgmental stance we take in looking at that contextual legacy. For a philosopher there is no stigma attached to mining the depths of human thought from Plato through Descartes, Kant, Hume and Nietzsche in search of resolving contemporary issues. Likewise, the built legacy offers a host of interesting positions that have the potential to enrich our contemporary understanding and action.
What emerges is a more complex overall relationship to our heritage. We mine it for ideas to feed our response. This requires a flexibility to shift position to look at the issues fresh.
In this respect, it mirrors a refreshing change of stance in relationship to those bodies that oversee our built heritage and settings.
The Historic Scotland Corporate Plan 2012-15 identifies, as you may expect, 'all aspects of our surroundings that have been built, formed or influenced by human activities from earliest to more recent times'.
Further recent documentation extends this remit by embracing broader environmental policy in the form of 'A climate change action plan for Historic Scotland 2012 - 2017'.
In parallel, existing buildings struggle to compete in viability with new build projects. VAT on existing buildings is a draconian shackle on anyone wanting to contribute to our environment. Another challenge we have faced has been the hesitation by grant awarding authorities to award grants for improvement to aspects beyond the tangible physical built form.
In a more positive light, in one area there has been a change in position. The Historic Scotland grants for Places of Worship Scheme now allows churches to seek grant funding up to the level of 15% for energy and electrical installations including bathrooms and kitchens.
What it shows is that we do not need to fix our positions, rather remain flexible for the future.