Future Heritage Of London Cultural Studies Essay

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This essay provides an insight on the perception of contemporary urban development as heritage for the future generations. It also provides a dynamic picture of Great Britain's built heritage. It is a brief on whether architectural and urban heritage is a dead weight or a dynamic asset for the future. As London being the capital city of Great Britain, a few key issues and events have led London to take its current form. This current form is affecting the city today and hence in the future development as well.

The aim is to examine the strategic context of 'Future Heritage of London' and its impact on the heritage-led regeneration for the future development. The primary objective is to provide suggestions or recommendations as to how this might be achieved in the future.


Heritage is the valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations. 'Heritage asset' is used by English Heritage which includes: Tangible and Intangible.

Tangible includes: Buildings, places, monuments and artefacts, whereas;

Intangible includes: Art and craft, rituals and festivals, language

All these (tangible) heritage buildings have a story to tell which can be read from the significant stages of their development over the decades. Hence, the challenges faced at that time; for example: from the blocked-up windows to alternative roof structures based on available skills and technologies is appreciable (Jonas, 2006). The English Heritage uses shorthand as 'heritage asset' for any component of historic environment which includes: historic buildings both statutorily listed or of local significance, conservation areas, scheduled monuments and other archaeological remains and historic landscapes including registered gardens and parks and battlefields (Jonas, 2006).

Designation is a celebration of special interest, intended to ensure that the significance and character of the asset in question are protected through the planning system, to ensure they are passed on to future generations. Buildings and structures are generally listed (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/listing/criteria-for-protection/, 2012). The listed building criteria are broadly divided into architectural and historical interest. It makes people's life and the capital's income qualitative due to London's special historic character (Dulieu, 2003).

The general principles are as follows:

Age and rarity

Aesthetic merits


National interest

State of repair


London's past has a sustainable future is ensured by working together as planners, developers and conservationists. Conservation is about managing and not preventing change. The greatest success story of London is conservation. It is due to the overwhelming public support; the success of conserving whole historic environment. Hence it has 40,000 listed buildings, 860 conservation areas, 3 World Heritage Sites and more than 600 London squares (Dulieu, 2003).

Some of the world-renowned Contemporary architects include Renzo Piano, Giancarlo De Carlo, Richard Rogers, De Meuron, Alvaro Siza and Norman Foster. Some projects by these renowned architects include the creation of new eco-systems, which include the re-use and conversion of redundant buildings and elements of the industrial past as well as infrastructures, planting and new buildings. It generates a sustainable balance between the existing city and its future development when use of new technologies is done in order to accommodate changing needs (Meade, 1998).


The term 'regeneration' has no one set definition. Regeneration is a growth industry in which heritage assets play a central role in achieving successful regeneration-by representing an opportunity rather than a constraint (Jonas, 2006). This term has been appropriated by planners, politicians and managers in architectural, social and cultural sectors to suit their changing agendas. Thus we have economic regeneration which uses physical renovation to revive the economic market of a place, social regeneration which revives social communities or cultural regeneration where art and craft are used to revive vibrancy and life. All these varying types of regeneration have the common element in every case; it is comprised of 'the use of public funding to support an initiative which aims to achieve an improvement to the conditions of disadvantaged people or places' (Report of the London Assembly's Economic Development Committee, 2002).

Regeneration focused around heritage is well known as Heritage-led regeneration and is of three different types distinctively: area-based regeneration, single building regeneration and heritage project regeneration.

Area based regeneration is the physical regeneration of a conservation area, town centre or historic landscape.

Single building regeneration is the physical regeneration of a single building.

Heritage project regeneration is a socially beneficial project based around a historic building without involving physical regeneration.

These distinctions are important to understand that each type of project has specific aims, and hence may have different outcomes (Palmer, 2008). Heritage-led generation can also be defined as the improvement of disadvantaged people or places through the delivery of a heritage focused project (www.ahfung.org.uk, 2012).

The positive qualities and benefits that heritage assets add to a regeneration scheme could be:

The focal point created by historic buildings relates people giving a sense of place.

The community will rally around to support or save being the well-loved local landmarks.

A distinctive identity is added by the fabric and design to the 'new build' part of a regeneration scheme also by enhancing townscapes and lifting the overall quality of the built environment.

Through the wider regeneration area, interesting cultural and historical associations can be interpreted and developed.

Sustainable development objectives are achieved by assisting

Tenants or occupiers may be attracted who would not be interested in a less distinctive building.

People's interest in the past is fed (Jonas, 2006).

Value of historic buildings is stated in this quote by Rypkema (1992): "Preservations often talk about the 'value' of historic properties: the social value, cultural value, aesthetic value, urban context value, architectural value, historical value and sense of place. In fact, one of the strongest arguments for preservation ought to be that a historic building has multiple layers of 'value' to its community."


'To demolish a Victorian terraced house is to throw away enough to drive a car around the world five times. None of this is wasted if the building is refurbished' (Heritage Counts, 2012). In the past regeneration has been concentrated on the individual and area based projects which aimed at improvement of housing, economic conditions and the living environment. It is beneficial to the wider area and community and not only to the individual building. Case studies carried out all over Britain have proved that all types of regeneration revive areas of economic depression, attracting tourism, business and raising property values. A process is then occurred where the functional and physical awakening is led to economic awakening. Further, this is judged in order to start a social revitalisation; where the outcome is an incidental and assumed beneficial (www.ahfung.org.uk, 2012).


Understanding the theory of heritage versus the contemporary involves looking at three distinct cases within London context. Firstly, buildings that have had Contemporary additions to the existing structure for regeneration and to understand the reasons behind it, whether it is to re-purpose, save from demolition, to give a new lease of life or simply expansion. Secondly, look at listed modern buildings to understand its context and importance. And lastly look at a recent new development with its impact on London heritage.

The Roundhouse, Camden

Originally built as an engine turntable shed, in 1847 by the London and North Western Railway, the 'Roundhouse' is now one of north London's most famous buildings and a thriving venue for cultural activities and events. Initially after many years as a warehouse, it became a venue for the performing arts. However, it soon closed the doors to public in 1983 due to insufficient funding and mounting debts. It is only until it got listed as a Grade II* building, by the English Heritage, that it saw new life. The Roundhouse got a strikingly designed new wing added to the main building by a three-storey glazed gallery space which provided hospitality, offices and a studio theatre. This resulted in a positive new future as a landmark in London and a welcoming new resource for the community.

Lloyd's Building

One of the finest examples of iconic modern buildings in historic London is the Lloyd's building which earned the accolade of being listed at Grade I by English Heritage on 19 December 2011, after a period of twenty-five years since it is constructed. As a commercial building, Lloyd's is an innovation marvel and fit for its purpose as the core to its design was flexibility of use. The materials used are of high quality and its futuristic High Tech design, by one of Britain's most significant modern architects - Richard Rogers, has an extraordinary timelessness that makes it appear futuristic even twenty-five years after opening. The Lloyd's building sits in the heart of London along with many listed neighbours and forms a wonderful backdrop to many of these in captured vistas throughout the city. Richard Ward, Chief Executive of Lloyd's, welcoming the listing said: "Lloyd's was ahead of its time when it approved the building of One Lime Street - it's a world famous building that has gone on to embody the world famous Lloyd's brand. The building remains modern, innovative and unique - it has really stood the test of time just like the market that sits within it. This listing decision will protect the building against unsuitable alteration or development whilst retaining its flexibility to adapt with the market's needs." (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/lloyds-building-listed/, 2011).

The Shard

One of the most recent striking additions to the London skyline at the heart of the city is the 'Shard'. This skyscraper located at London Bridge on the south bank of the Thames, is already a landmark, rising high above Southwark borough that is polarised in spatial terms by office districts around London Bridge station in the north and deprived housing estates in the southern two thirds of its territory. The Shard was granted planning permission in 2002 owing to its architectural qualities and envisioning its role as a marker of urban revitalisation for the disadvantaged neighbourhoods further south. However English Heritage raised an objection in relation to the height of the tower and the fact that it would compete with the monumentality of St. Paul's Cathedral. As a result the London View Management Framework (LVMF) was introduced by GLA in 2007 in order to identify monuments that are to be protected in the skyline and the protected views within which the silhouettes of these monuments are to be distinctly visible on the horizon.

The Shard and few other iconic towers, such as the Gherkin and Heron Tower, paved the way for numerous high-rise projects in London. The debate therefore remains heated and as pertinent as ever with regard to the question of the relevance of towers in historic cities. On the one hand, the City, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and the GLA are capitalising on the popularity of the Gherkin and the Shard, highlight the architectural quality of the designs in question, the need for densification and the contribution that these towers make to London's status as a global city. On the other, English Heritage consistently denounces the intrusion of towers not just upon perspectives and views of monuments but also upon cityscapes not protected by the LVMF (Appert, 2011).


Modernism can be regarded as a historical style which has provoked discussions about the appropriate way in order to conserve many outstanding buildings of the 20th century. The modernist buildings may have been built or designed in ways which were hostile to long life or ease of repair. Hence, how should we treat these buildings? Where are the illustrations that may point out to approach to repair, upgrade or demolish? How are these Modernist-related buildings being kept for future generations across the world?

Even though modernism denied the historical approach, it has now accomplished a time-depth and conservation dimension of its own. The modernist buildings are deliberately designed without indenting for its long-life or ease of repair and the intellectual difficulties in adapting them. The 'Conservation Principles' stated by the English Heritage answers the question based on which modernist buildings of the 20th century are to be conserved. 'Conservation Principles' helps to make one understand the historic significance of any building. By doing so, judgements could be made on whether how to conserve, where necessary, to adapt them to new or future uses. These principles form the basis to manage the historic environment.


It provokes that conservation is not about 'preserving' architecture and stop the past. Instead, it is about continuity and creating a story to fill up these gaps, rifts and changes. Each type of building has a particular value of its own. One of them is the evidential value which is the physical record of an innovative construction and building materials such as 'Peter Jones Sloane Square'. Then there may be historic value in a building as it being the first of its kind like the Boots Factory in Nottingham or its historic value lies in the fact that it is symbolically vital point in history or buildings which may be associated with specific events, activities, institutions or people like the assurance behind the foundation of the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Institute.

Other values are the aesthetic value which is seen as subjective such as the Centre Point or as the ziggurat building at UEA. Communal values such as the ones seen in the social housing like Trellick Tower or Golden lane and in the post-war town centre layouts of Coventry or Plymouth which promote social value of pedestrian shopping areas and integrated parking.

Taking for example the West Pier at Brighton; the individual iron components of the Pier were all in mass production and were hundreds of identical components along with an individually carved stone roof boss on the nave of a medieval cathedral. In this case, the Pier's components have a lesser significance; being always sacrificial than the nave of the cathedral. These iron components could be replaced and unbolted if they deflected, corroded or suffered some damage. Hence, the significance or authenticity of the pier will not diminish in any way with its replacement. In other words, the pier's aesthetic value - its design is more important than its evidential value. In the same way, the famous high level bridge in Newcastle which is an important engineering feat but above all of breathtaking community value. Its evidential value was eroded almost completely for years when iron components have been replaced by steel ones. This does not mean that the modernist buildings have low evidential value as a group. Possibly, if one can overcome the technical difficulties of replacing concrete, steel and glass, aluminium and other modern materials by retaining strength of the other values. Likewise, the authenticity of these buildings rests in their design-their value in their aesthetic if the materials are replaceable.

If the buildings put up before 1800 are in anything like average quality or their original state, they qualify for listing. In case of modernist building, demonstration of its significance unusually high is necessary. Hence, the listed modernist buildings need to be exceptional and not just ordinary products of their age. Therefore, the modernist buildings are indeed tougher than any other building built before 1800 to list in the listing criteria. The planning system is embraced more than the heritage significance. This is where heritage values are weighed against other values which are important to the society. This has been encapsulated in the Conservation principles. There are two tests against which a proposal to demolish a building must be assessed. They are as follows:

The condition of the building, the cost of maintaining and repairing it in relation to its importance and the value derived from its continual use;

The adequacy of efforts made to retain the building in use and

If the first two are met, the merits of alternative proposals for the site.

Hence, this leaves to us to a point where the modernist buildings present special problems to conservationists. If Conservation is constructive and creditable part of society, a philosophy is required that embraces all building types and intervals of construction. These value based tools, conservation principles and used property in the planning process leads us to make beneficial and sound judgements for the future.

Looking at the listing criteria, it includes the buildings important to the nation for the interest of their decoration, craftsmanship and architectural design. The selection draws from giving credit to ambition and imagination and all styles of recent architecture. Thankful to the new materials and engineering techniques which mark a notable feature due to its dramatic treatment of space, the intelligent treatment of functional requirement is given special consideration. The listing includes eligibility of the buildings which demonstrate technological innovation, as rarely the ones which are associated with a significant historic 'first'. At times buildings with important historic or architectural group are also listed. Hence, based on the above several factors, some recommendations are acquired. A building which is listed possesses a consistent idea which runs through its various components like its architectural form, structure, services and materials. The key consideration of a building is its design as a total (www.english-heritage.org.uk, 2012).


The key component of successful future is continuing adaptation and reuse of our existing spaces and buildings (Dulieu, 2003). As the historic buildings constitute an enormous past investment of resources; they should not be thrown away without considering its ecological and economic implications. Strategic views and tall buildings are two of the most controversial issues. Tall buildings are not necessary for the future of London has been demonstrated by successive studies. The need for higher density housing does not mean high-rise is required. Two third of the people do not want any new tower blocks while 10% want them to live in. The placement of tall buildings in the wrong or unwanted places would cause unsustainable environment. This can have adverse effect on the life of the surrounding communities.

World-class designs could be offered at places like Canary Wharf, the Thames Gateway, the Greenwich peninsula, Stratford and Croydon. Hence, by making a choice of the appropriate place or area where these tall buildings could enhance London without damaging the historic environment and the qualities which made London special. In the joint guidance on tall buildings with the Commission for Architecture and the Build Environment (CABE), the English Heritage stated that it is important to take into consideration whether the location is suitable for a tall building in terms of its effect on the local-level as well as on the historic environment at a city-wide. If not, then no building should be accepted however good design it has.

"If we choose to have tall buildings, then there are places where they could enhance London without damaging the historic environment." - Philip Davies, London Region Director

To get the London plan sorted, the starting point could be to carry out detailed character of London's historic environment in order to identify the important strategic and local views and other constraints. Then areas could be highlighted that are either appropriate or inappropriate for tall buildings. In case of the appropriate locations, further detailed urban design frameworks could be prepared. By doing this, one can ensure that the new tall buildings are only approved when they form part of a coherent whole, they are of the highest quality and informed by a clear vision of the nature of the place being created. Therefore there is still time to get things sorted which is why it is important to understand the importance of the London's historic environment and take public opinion as well.

"Thoughtless change could sweep away the precious resource that is London's historic environment." - Richard Dumville, Policy Officer, London Region

This means any thoughtless change driven by hope of short-term gain or ignorance could sweep away London's historic environment; the precious resource. Without change, there would be no history. But due to thoughtless changes or decisions, the economic, environmental and social benefits would sweep away and heritage could easily become history.

For the environmental benefits of London's historic environment, it is hard to imagine the city without its trees, gardens and parks, the tiny patches of open spaces (well managed) found on many street corners. All these are the characteristics of London.

In case of economic benefit, 54% of the people's point of view states that the historic environment of London encourages Tourism. It is the capital city's historic buildings that encouraged them to visit. The wider economy is benefited about 96% which is as much as the vast bulk of income these visitors bring. Due to the conservation of the historic environment, physical improvements are delivered along with job opportunities. This way the benefits would be substantial (Dulieu, 2003).

What need to be done with the enormous challenges faced by the London's historic environment?

Incorporate the historic environment into the local plan-making and strategic processes.

Deal with the improvement and maintenance of the parks and open spaces.

Improve the public monarchy by removing clutter and incorporating street places for people to enjoy.

Discover beneficial, imaginative new uses for historic buildings at risk from neglect.

Create a liveable city for all to enjoy by regenerating the historic neighbourhoods.

Support good new buildings which respond creatively to their context by reinforcing local character.

Encourage tall buildings to appropriate areas where they can enhance without damaging the qualities that make London unique.

Rejoice local uniqueness and diversity.

As a key component of a sustainable future, cherish London's historic environment.

(Dulieu, 2003).