There are over 1,000 Post-War buildings listed across the UK, many of them constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. In light of the climate emergency, in addition to retaining the architectural exemplar of our urban history, Partner David Hills and Twentieth Century Heritage Consultant Jon Wright discuss how Post-War architecture offers opportunities not liabilities.
There certainly have been some mistakes of the recent past and often these mistakes have as much to do with the management of sites post-completion, as they do about the architectural quality of the period per-se.
Post-War buildings are part of our collective heritage and many of these buildings, having been through the ‘ugly valley’ have emerged as evidence of a heroic period of architectural history and are accordingly on the national list.
No less importantly, many buildings from the period, concrete ones in particular, embody huge amounts of carbon. Finding sensible alternatives to demolition and rebuild, such as adaptive re-use, retrofitting and enhancement must now be part of the response to the climate emergency.
Conservation architects can help solve some of the issues facing these buildings by creatively adapting skills learnt through conserving and adapting building fabric and drawing a line under the demolish/rebuild model through re-use. Buildings of earlier periods have demonstrated that functions can change, and the buildings of the Post-War era are no different.
Change represents the opportunity to address some of mistakes of the past, deal with some problematic building stock and revitalise towns and cities without wasting fabric, resources and money. In the right hands, the buildings of the Post-War period, whether listed or not, represent opportunities, not liabilities.