Re. A VISION FOR THE FUTURE (Observer 4-11-16, pages 1, 108 and 106).
When endeavour to conserve an historic building does not meet with success, feature components might be retrieved and stored in offered space, eg. willing individuals’ gardens or with Hastings Borough Council, until a re-use becomes available elsewhere.
Within a sizeable new building development, such as the proposed multi-million pound sports complex and residential development, there would be considerable scope for such re-use of retrieved components. But nothing so grand is required to operate the concept – part of the old pier’s railings had been retrieved, with the intention of re-use elsewhere in the town.
The visual design of the new pier, met with varied comment; it may not be an instantly consumable image. But the essence of its composition is rooted in accomplished architecture, in that it looks to fulfil its economic function and address long-term validity by providing an amount of flexibility. It also recognises contemporary methods of construction (although assimilating with past insights should be valued) and keeps an eye on working within a budget.
All these points help keep check on irresponsibility being equated with creative genius, in an ultimate planning decision.
The significant level of reclaimed and re-used materials from detritus of the previous pier is an excellent illustration of regeneration welcoming the use of retrieved components from an old building. Memories are kindled within the newly-built pier. So it is a piece of statement architecture that speaks its design intentions; to remember the past, communicate the present and contribute the future.
After the functional purpose has been suggested for any given site, it would be useful to have broad-ranging discussions about over-arching ideologies for the site and its development, so that in transformation, relevant references to past lifestyles and original land formation/natural surrounding, are carried forward within the new build where befitting, plus concerns and thoughts for the future looked at. Architecture is a powerful vehicle in this respect.
An eclectic outlook would be required, that is attentive to both the large-scale work as well as the detail, plus seeks to anticipate the social drivers of change in architectural design.
It is challenging to represent Hastings and St Leonards as a modern setting, that is also cohesive with the substantial historical buildings’ heritage. Freezing the evolutionary process of the borough would not be sensible, as it doesn’t exist solely as a tourist attraction on its historicism.
But the excessive reductionism that characterises quite a bit of modern architecture is unlikely to ‘talk up’ the heritage assets, whereas ‘subtly understated’ new build should work in favour of showing off heritage assets.
The speed of transformation brought about by regeneration initiatives, chances disjoint between old and new buildings – but with care we can avoid the built environment fragmenting into free-standing object buildings that don’t merge into the overall rhythm of built areas. Yet, as with the Old Town, an incredible mix of building styles is still possible.
Our towns have a reputation for artists’ creativity. Could artists’ reflection serve alongside the role of architect in preservation and in creation of buildings? Such collaboration might accentuate new lines of perception about the urban fabric and civic spaces it frames. Indeed, should interdisciplinary boundaries between contributors to a building work be erased? Architecture appears to be a discipline that can work with creatives who have sufficient understanding of a specialist field.
Artists might provide sketches recording an immediate response to a proposed development site and the suggested function for it, as well as portray a form they imagine for the building. Fresh concepts will stretch architects’ potential to bring sound notions to fruition, while components that would result in poorly-led performing building can be eliminated.
A quality architectural landscape attends to visual form. It also follows a sort of narrative that informs an image of the borough. On this point, urban dwellers might exercise patience to approach architecture with reduced expectation of being immediately satisfied and instead take their time with the interactive experience of the tactile and spatial qualities which will be revelatory in the standard of syntheses.
Rita Da Silva
St Matthews Road
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