Atkins: broadening concepts of heritage
Atkins Global has been speaking about widening perceptions of heritage in our cities. Technical Director for Heritage, Andrew Croft, insists that we should be aware that different cultures around the world will have varying attitudes to preserving the past and it is right to respect this.
Working in Oman, in the Middle East, he has become conscious that the emphasis is on the use of space, rather than building structures to last. The use of materials that decay, such as 'mud-brick' are in favour he says, along with teaching the skills to re-build regularly.
Back in the UK, Andrew who has been working with Liverpool since 2002, describes the city as being in constant flux. The challenge lies in achieving a balance between preserving the heritage architecture of previous trading eras, while allowing new commercial buildings to drive a sense of identity for the city.
Birmingham, he admits has different priorities again. He describes it as a city that is more spread, a conglomeration of suburbs with diversity as a key factor:
'There have been fewer strong architectural statements in its past and this is a city which is far more about different communities coming together.'
Andrew says that there must always be parameters when talking about preserving heritage, but most importantly there must be regard for the local community and its particular culture:
'There must be no clean sweeps he warns but at the same time, that doesn't mean keeping it all. If a builiding is adaptable to future needs, why remove it? Local communities must be allowed to decide how existing buildings are to be used. The private sector will help to preserve tall towers in this age, compared to the public sector in the past, But we need more social housing and we need it fast.'
In the meantime, he says, it is vital that we keep our higher education expertise on heritage management, which attratcts a range of students from different nationalities, exploring the issues involved in urban planning, building preservation and tourism. In the UK we have the ability to be reflective and that drives a high-level and important conversation.
Andrew will be speaking at our Future Cities Forum in June on heritage.