TV presenter, architect & Grand Designs Live ambassador George Clarke shares his views on the importance of restoring old buildings.
'There are now 5,700 buildings, monuments, conservation areas and other structures on English Heritage's Heritage at Risk register. This figure doesn't even include architecture in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Reasons for disrepair include lack of inves'There are now 5,700 buildings, monuments,conservation areas and other structures on English Heritage's Heritage at Risk register. This figure doesn't even include architecture in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Reasons for disrepair include lack of investment, falling into the wrong hands, or simply because the structure is now redundant.
'On the one hand, this is a national tragedy. Buildings are a unique part of our heritage. People come from all over the world to enjoy our rich history, which is captured in every brick, stone and length of timber. On the other hand, with a bit of positive thinking, this adversity can provide an opportunity for people like you and me: to get hold of beautiful buildings and breathe new life into them. I think that individuals, groups and communities should come together to think creatively about how structures can be reinvented and saved for future generations. In Channel 4's Restoration Man, all of our abandoned buildings are converted into homes, such as the water tower, oast house and Thomas Telford-designed church. But we need many different types of structure in modern communities, and old buildings have the potential to perform various functions. It is about having the vision, determination and, of course, the money to bring these spaces back into use. Not an easy task, perhaps, but it is possible.
'Money may be tight in UK plc, but I recently judged the English Heritage Angel Awards (english-heritage.org.uk/caring/angel-awards) and it was incredible to see what can be achieved when people with a passion to restore our heritage work together. Converting and saving old buildings – particularly those that are empty and abandoned – and refurbishing the 25 million existing homes we have in Britain could well be the future of British architecture.'