The type of buildings that we work on and the nature of the work that we undertake very often requires us to place conservation at the heart of our design process. A large proportion of the work of the practice involves the refurbishment, extension and adaption of historic buildings and often these are Listed buildings. The protections conferred upon these buildings – whether this be through statutory listing or by way of being a building of local architectural interest or the situation within a Conservation Area – sets a framework of constraints that we, as conservation architects, need to navigate.
We find that our clients – whether these are owner occupiers, operators, developers, or long-term investors have, very often, been attracted to a particular building for the intrinsic qualities that come with a heritage asset. Whether this be a townhouse in Kensington, a hotel in Piccadilly or a farmstead in Suffolk. Indeed, the wider attraction of heritage buildings is reflected in property prices: a 2012 survey by the London School of Economics found that homes in Conservation Areas command 9% higher prices and have a higher price growth rate compared to homes outside Conservation Areas.
However, while our clients are attracted to the historic building and to the environment in which they are located, they also expect modern facilities, and this is where our expertise as Conservation Architects makes a valuable contribution.
We believe in protecting and caring for the heritage aspects of the buildings, but we also believe that this can be achieved alongside carefully considered contemporary interventions.
It is often the case that the most architectural interesting heritage buildings represent layers of evolution and this can present a fascinating glimpse into changing tastes and technologies through the ages.
So, as Conservation Architects, we seek to care for the building’s history through sensitive preservation of but to also look forward and place the building into a longer-term context with the belief that well designed contemporary additions made now will become part of the layered history in future.
Conservation Architects in London
The prime areas of central London are typically considered to be the postcode zones of W1 (Mayfair and West End), W8 (Kensington), W11 (Notting Hill and Holland Park), SW1 (Belgravia), SW3 (Chelsea), SW5 & SW7 (South Kensington). These postcode areas fall almost entirely within two Boroughs: The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and The City of Westminster. Together these Boroughs contain 91 designated Conservation Areas covering virtually the entire area, as seen in the map below.
This central historic core of the city has, by far, the highest concentration of protected buildings.
Designing within these sensitive historic areas requires a specialist level of architectural expertise. Proposals are closely scrutinized by the planning authorities and we, as Conservation Architects, need to develop persuasive proposals in order to obtain beneficial consents for our clients. The statutory authorities who grant the consents are duty bound to ensure that the proposals ‘preserve or enhance’ the character of a Conservation Area. Rodić Davidson has extensive experience of building successful dialogue with Conservation Officers and we have a track record of securing advantageous consents for new build projects as well as renovations.
What is Conservation Architecture?
There is no precise definition but our belief at Rodić Davidson is that Conservation Architecture recognizes the contribution that high quality buildings make in enriching our cities and, by direct association, our lives. We believe that Conservation Architecture should be considered more as a philosophical approach: an approach that should seeks to understand the values that society attributes to our shared history and the relative importance of the building within this context. Conservation Architecture recognizes that buildings, although likely to be owned privately, contribute to the public realm and to society and therefore that good buildings – ones which have been deemed by society to be worthy of protection, should be conserved.
Good buildings, of course, do not necessarily need to be old. We believe that the guiding principles of Conservation Architecture apply as equally to important 20th Century buildings as they do to those from the 12th Century. Societal attitudes also tend to change, sometimes quite rapidly, which has, throughout history, led to good buildings being destroyed in favour of substandard replacements.
In summary we consider Conservation Architecture is the contribution that we, as architects, can make after the political and societal decisions have been made to confer protection upon a building or area. In applying our expertise, we need to have appreciation for the wider context and for the reasons why the building has been ascribed significance. It is only by understanding this that we can seek to make positive design contributions to enhancements for the future.
Who Needs Conservation Architecture?
Conservation legislation and policies are in place to primarily protect our heritage, whether this be recent or in the distant past. In every instance, the heritage asset will have been deemed to be of such cultural value that preservation is in the public interest. Accordingly, it can be reasonably argued that Conservation Architecture, being the application of professional expertise to a conservation brief, is ‘needed’ by everyone rather than just someone.
Our role as Conservation Architects is to work on behalf of our clients with the aim of balancing this public/private interest with the goal of achieving beneficial consents.
Our Conservation Services
Our Conservation services are rooted in commercial practicality. We look to understand the client brief and aspirations and to consider these against the legislative frameworks in place. We do this by carrying out extensive research into the local area, understanding the reasons for the ascribed significance and taking time to research the history.
We then seek to develop a compelling scheme that meets the client brief but also works within the legislative framework imposed. Sometimes this may involve the removal of inappropriate or poor-quality extensions which can ‘balance’ more ambitious proposals elsewhere in the scheme.
Our approach will often be to express modern insertions into old buildings as distinct elements, whilst the original building will be repaired using traditional building methods and materials. This approach for extension is often welcomed by conservation officers as it can provide a historical clarity of development and a legibility of form.
Our Conservation Portfolio
Former Embassy, Kensington: a Grade II Listed property originally built as two separate dwellings in 1860 with a rich history and range of uses.
Farmstead, Suffolk: a Grade II Listed property consisting of an 18th Century Farmhouse and 17th Century Suffolk Barn. The scheme proposed the conversion of this historic farmstead into a single 10,000 sqft family dwelling. Read more about our conservation approach and modern additions.
Country House, Yorkshire: a Grade II* Listed Georgian mansion, renovated to provide residential accommodation fit for the modern family and upgrading of the overall complex of buildings.
Townhouse, Belgravia: a Grade II Listed 19th Century Regency Townhouse in the heart of the Belgravia Conservation Area, previously split and home to four apartments, Rodic Davidson were commissioned to restore the property to its original family dwelling use.
Get in touch with our team today
Rodić Davidson is always interested in new conservation projects of any scale, one of our team would love to hear about your property and discuss how we can help.
You can call our studio to enquire or email us on email@example.com
+44 (0)20 7043 3551
+44 (0)20 7043 3552