With studios and teams located across the globe, collaboration, flexibility and adaptability are long-established modes of operation for Purcell. Whether it be the practical challenges of remote project delivery or the ‘new-normal’ of working from home, remote working practices allow for team engagement and collaboration.
This, in turn, enables efficient and successful delivery of projects of any scale and complexity. With our well-coordinated and executed project plans, Purcell continues to deliver world-leading projects – no matter the challenge.
Well into the sub-Antarctic Purcell teams worked to assess and preserve the island of South Georgia’s heritage, including the rare remains of a 20th-century whaling station, Grytviken. Conservation challenges posed by the three-day-by-boat access are compounded by strong katabatic winds, ice-filled bays in winter and next to no resident population beyond the often-rare local flora and fauna.
Three principals were key to the project’s success; articulating local cultural heritage, consideration of practical realities and excellent client relationships. This ensured that the framework could provide actionable plans based on realistic conservation philosophies.
Remote research made extensive use of pre-existing surveys and rare experts of the island’s heritage in Europe and the South Pacific – bridging gaps imposed by limited access. Meticulous examination of every asset on the island – from the helicopter to shipwrecks – built a detailed map of their significance.
Once on the ground, Purcell’s teams used 3D laser scans and drone footage to document all whaling stations stretched along the coast. These create the opportunity to “visit” the sites remotely for anyone across the globe; conveniently circumventing the further days of travel, asbestos training and the threat of seal attacks otherwise necessary.
Meticulous planning meant that despite narrow windows for fieldwork, lengthy supply chains for all materials and tools (as well as patchy internet) the building team could deliver conservation works and receive support from staff in the UK. At Grytviken Whaling Station and neighbouring King Edward Point, two buildings were repaired and repurposed as a result.
Distant resourcing was faced by our team again at the Kingston Arthurs Vale Historic Area on Norfolk Island, 1,600km north east of Sydney. As one of the 11 locations forming part of the Australian Convict Sites UNESCO World Heritage Listing, Purcell were engaged to provide a number of services.
Situations seen in South Georgia were faced here too; limited resident traditional trade skills, restricted access to materials and specialist equipment complicates the preservation of built heritage.
Here, a greater number of site visits were possible; detailed inspections and surveys often combined with on-site plan preparation alongside those responsible for their implementation. This attention to the details and the practical realities that govern the island resulted in a program of preventative maintenance; one that focused on traditional materials and skills training that enables a hands-on approach to conservation management for the client. By producing this practical approach, Purcell drew from local limitations, conditions and client needs: actionable and relevant advice which can be met effectively with remote management from our Australia studios.
Purcell’s work with The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is another example of effective international collaboration between local expertise and Purcell studios in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia; working as integrated teams with the Commission from Belgium to Myanmar.
The Commission protects and conserves monuments and cemeteries across the world, with each site facing a staggering range of challenges. Climate, isolation, urban development in addition to varied cultural perceptions on the memorialisation of the dead all play a factor.
In the remote city of Kohima in north-east India, practical issues have included earthquakes, monsoon rains, shortages in water and hydraulic lime – compounded by challenges posed by crowds flocking to the rare green space.
By working closely with local staff and Indian consultants, practical challenges and the local perception of the cemetery formed Purcell’s work from the start, which was crucial considering the short period of access. Discussions unpicked the sites complexities, local politics and geography to provide truly meaningful and actionable conservation advice.
Many sites, such as in Israel, Singapore, Egypt and Greece, draw on the knowledge from Purcell studios across the UK, Hong Kong and Australia at once. These international teams capitalise on careful co-ordination within the practice, ensuring expertise is maintained despite different geographic locations of Purcell project leaders and other contributors; developing bespoke templates to shape consistency of output.
Remote working is always a challenge, however, managing projects across a huge spectrum of practical contexts and cultures is a day to day reality in Purcell studios. For the two hundred or so staff who have worked remotely at some capacity since the studios were first established, this homeworking ‘new normal’ is not so new.
Translating working practices across regional regulations, practical realities, time-zones and local cultures is a fundamental part of delivering the expertise Purcell is known for, underpinning our international success. As the regions change, so does the act of heritage conservation, both in terms of design and practice. Meaningful action is only taken with a full appreciation of a place’s significance – appreciating this, from whichever culture, team or location ensures remote working need never hinder heritage’s future.