/ Justin Fenton / Conservation

Forethought, or in other words planning, is an essential part of everything we do. Within every moment of our lives we consciously (and not) shape our future whether in action or thought. In an odd way we plan that future. For us as architects and designers, planning has become synonymous with a statutory hurdle, but looking beyond planning is about not stumbling into that future but anticipating it and managing it.

Our parallel experience in Conservation has shown us that it cannot just be reactive. We need to anticipate the future of our inherited environments and buildings. In other words we need to plan from a conservation point of view.

Engagement with that inheritance is important to understand why protection is such a priority. We need to trace the story of the evolution of a site and by piecing together the narrative, patch in future aspirations. Interestingly that research can be more complicated than simply tracing the broad story of the historic building or setting. Buildings undergo a myriad of minor and subtle material repairs which through time can challenge the broad historical overview.

A good example is our project to repair the windows to Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building Library. In this ostensibly original masterpiece, the original windows had been completely replaced in the 1950s with the aim of improving their performance. In a number of ways the new provision did not work and the recent conservation, repair and adaptation seeks to overcome the repair short comings.

Critically then, we are dealing with three strands - what we understand was there originally, what the invisible but in this case comprehensive repair replacement was and, finally, how should we react to these two situations. Planning conservation is a process of getting to the core of the issues to allow us to shape the future of the fabric.

In summary we need to blend two of these parallel strands, essentially histories. At the macro scale the lineage of the site and building evolution and at the micro scale documentation and assessment of performance of the ongoing fabric repair. In mapping these two conditions we can plan for the future of that heritage.