/ Chris Simmonds / Places to live

In the context of the spectacular Olympic Opening Ceremony, Thomas Heatherwick's exhibition at the V and A was discussed and in particular his thesis regarding the loss of the architect's close relationship to the builder. The growing recognition of this disconnection should be a spur to action in the recapturing of inspirational architecture achieved through making and building conceived together.

In many ways this disassociation of profession from craft and skill is symptomatic of a general fragmentary tendency in our society.

One reassuring aspect, reasserting the idea of continuity, is the retention of existing buildings and our approach to it. Through a series of projects we have explored the ideas behind our conservation approach. The spectrum extends from preservation and consolidation through an adaptive method where additions extend the existing vision to a generally more interventionist strategy of subtle modification of the original and in turn invention of the new.

What have we learned in these explorations is that we are seeking

1. A heightened sense of being - helped by our understanding of the role of history and continuity as the fourth dimension of the process of making

2. The techniques of embedding - understanding the role and significance of townscape and making

3. The processes of stripping away - how we can adapt the existing fabric in creating larger flexible spaces relating to how we live today.

4. The processes of putting back - what we put back is informed by a narrative that evolves from the process.

The example of the Laing House was discussed as a model of thinking and the relationship of the house to the additional space required. The crucial point may lie in the terminology we use to explain what we do, seeing the building as growing or evolving rather than being added to or challenged by the new.

Laing House