Conservation and the relationship with City & Land

/ Justin Fenton / Conservation

'Every site has a history and should be seen in the context of its physical and social role' neatly summarises the foundation to our creative explorations of any project. A series of Glasgow photographic curiosities was presented as a context for this discussion.

A Victorian inner urban map with overlay of deaths per household due to infections, an early 20th century view of the corner of Duke Street/High Street under construction, the Bruce Plan demolition of the inner city and its consequential impact through an aerial view of the motorway under construction and a foreground tenement framed by a tower block beyond.

History looked at in abstract is a curious aggregation of good intentions, driving visions, accidents and indifference. How can sense be made of it.

We have a method that accepts that sites are an amalgamation of these stories through time. Our first task is to disentangle the threads of these stories making sense of the marks they have left, the resultant juxtapositions, accidents and intentions. From this position of knowledge we seek to re-collage our interpretations of what is important in that historical progression of which our new interpretation will become a part. To do that we exploit the full range of scales from the strategic layout to the finely detailed junction to express the memories and traces of that rich historic and contemporary ensemble.

Two projects explained that approach, Colleglands on the High Street where, like archeologists, we excavated the overlays of dramatic change. And in contrast the apparently gentler evolution of the Dollar Academy setting, less self destructive but nonetheless just as provocative in its own way.

In discussion, returning to the Glasgow collection that introduced the morning, the rootlessness of Bruce’s planned erasure of Glasgow in pursuit of progress was compared to the more astute Haussmann planned insertion of streets into Paris. This led to comment on the relative merits of the endless vistas of the Glasgow grid and the organisation of a city like Paris around terminated vistas and focal point urban events.

High Street, Glasgow (Image source: RCAHMS)