Monday, 13 July 2009

Abdication crisis (again)

According to the Architects' Journal, the Prince of Wales has stomped away from SPAB in a huff because the society doesn't agree with his rather hardline views on conservation.

The AJ reports:
The falling-out centres on a foreword Charles wrote for a handbook on the restoration of old houses. The heir to the throne used the opportunity to express his belief that buildings should always be restored in their original style. The society, which frequently uses modern architecture and design, asked Charles to amend his conservative views. The Prince refused and subsequently resigned from the Society.

Philip Venning, secretary of SPAB, said: ‘We agree with so much of what he says, but on the issue of new design there are occasions when we disagree, and we don’t disguise the fact. We were pleased he was our patron.’

Charles was asked to write the foreword to The Old House Handbook by its authors, Roger Hunt and Marianne Suhr. After his work was rejected, Philip Venning provided the introduction himself.

The SPAB, founded by socialist architect and writer William Morris, is the world’s oldest environmental campaigning group. It is understood that Charles resigned from the Society several months ago when his five-year term as patron ended - before his very public row with Richard Rogers over the Chelsea Barracks development.

SPAB has yet to appoint a new patron.

It strikes me that HRH was rather clueless to accept the post in the first place if he failed to find out tht SPAB has nothing against new work, and has its own award to promote good new design in the context of historic buildings.
Perhaps SPAB will seize the opportunity to appoint a patron who actually knows about the society's work and who can actively work to promote it.
Whoever does get the job would be advised to spend just a couple of minutes reading what SPAB says about its aims:
Our work is guided by these principles:

Repair not Restore
Although no building can withstand decay, neglect and depredation entirely, neither can aesthetic judgement nor archaeological proof justify the reproduction of worn or missing parts. Only as a practical expedient on a small scale can a case for restoration be argued.

Responsible methods
A repair done today should not preclude treatment tomorrow, nor should it result in further loss of fabric.

Complement not parody
New work should express modern needs in a modern language. These are the only terms in which new can relate to old in a way which is positive and responsive at the same time. If an addition proves essential, it should not be made to out-do or out-last the original.

Regular maintenance
This is the most practical and economic form of preservation.

Although, to be honest, I would have thought that that a body like SPAB would be grown-up enough to be able to enter the 21st Century without a patron to, er, patronise it.

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