We are very lucky in Britain to have a few thousand years worth of man’s history dotted all over our land, and a great portion of our more recent history is still clearly visible all around us in the form of buildings and structures in one form or another. The grand estates of past eras, the castles and manors, old farm buildings and abbeys, not to mention Brythonic burial mounds and Roman ruins. All of these provide not only clues about our past to the lands modern inhabitants, in some cases they also provide a sense of wonder and awe, but what of our legacy? In another couple of hundred years time, what will our descendants have other than digital pictures and crowded landfill sites to remember this era by ?
Built to last
The Victorians built things with the intention that they were meant to last forever, or for a very long time at least. Some call it over-engineering, whilst others call it presence of mind, since many Edwardian and Victorian buildings and even machinery still function perfectly well today. Take for instance Burnley General Hospital which has in recent years seen demolished several of it’s fine old ward buildings to make way for less substantial, but more flexible use modern buildings. Many old Police stations have been demolished or sold off, and the number of libraries still in council ownership has been dwindling as long as I can remember.
Castles still stand, estate houses still exist but a good few of these have fallen into the hands of the local council as a result of death duties, or been bequeathed to the National Trust or other Heritage organisations. Some have been sold off and sub-divided into apartments whilst yet others lay in ruin or have been lost forever. Where will and funds permit, many buildings have been rescued, whilst others are so mired in preservation red tape that they too are in danger of being lost to the ravages of time.
Sense of wonder
We like seeing and wondering at the amount of work that must have gone into producing such spectacular structures and the lavish ornamentation that was bestowed on even the most utilitarian structures such as a Victorian water pump house which was really only ever meant to serve a practical purpose, but the Victorians saw things much differently than the architects and planning officers of our generation. Indeed the people behind the commissioning of such works had a sense of pride or felt a need to present an ostentatious and grand stamp of presence in the local area.
I dare say that if such a fine palace to success were to be proposed today that it would not get through the planning stages and such regulations may well be placed on a build that it would wind up looking less like a grand design and more like an office block. With building regulations dictating what is permissible regards construction methods, whilst town planning departments dictate the outward visual appeal to a great extent. Then of course there is the real driving force behind bland buildings… cost.
What cost the future
Cost is most likely the biggest consideration in any build, since the overweight tax burden and duty rates applied to the manufacture and transportation of materials prevents, to great degree, the grand designs of the past from making a renaissance. It stifles grand and lavish gestures, and kills off the jobs that would produce such opulent structures that would stand the test of time. On the plus side, it also stimulates the elimination of waste. Modern buildings have to be much more efficient and meet certain structural and other environmental regulations as well as maximising land use. Gone are the days of creating a mill owned model village.
So what would be likely from today’s architecture to survive for the next couple of hundred years ? The Erotic gherkin in London by chance ? The Humber Bridge ? Scammonden Dam, Tesco ? It would be nice to think that at least one project from these days could survive well into the 25th century. What might survive to remind future generations of how we used to live ?
Summary: Future yesterdays