Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Ancient and modern

That Hideous Man's blog "Going, going, going, gone" chimed in with something that I was involved in at work yesterday. We were discussing the need to replace several buildings that have outlived their usefulness. On the face of it there's nothing extraordinary in that, but I became aware as the meeting progressed that there were other aspects that we hadn't consciously been considering.

To explain, some of the buildings that need to be replaced are Victorian, and are cherished by their local communities; others are more modern - built in the 60's and 70's, and are not so well loved! Firstly, it's interesting (to me at least) that these buildings are coming to the end of their lives at the same time, even though they were built 100 years apart.

Secondly, as we plan for the replacements there is a responsibility on us to ensure that they are not constructed in a 'fadish' way that will need massive re-investment in a relatively short time span. Yet there is also an important dimension of civic pride (for want of a better phrase). The buildings are for public services, and so will have some degree of ownership by the communities that they serve.

Other complications such as town centre versus greenfield, value for money will need to be considered. But in our ever-changing, disposable, consumerist society should we plan buildings to last for 100 years or should we be up front and say that we are designing buildings with a life expectancy of 30 years, and the next generation will need to start planning before that time has elapsed?

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