Refurbishment to help maintain heritage
There is nothing worse than seeing an historic old building being left idle to slowly decay and crumble. In the years after the second world war, many buildings of the kind that National Lottery cash would rescue nowadays fell into ruin. This long list of country houses includes historic places such as Marple Hall, home of Judge John Bradshaw, the final signatory on the king's death warrant at the end of the English civil war and the 'Lord President' of Cromwell's republic. After crumbling for years, it was demolished in 1954, one of scores of halls lost in the 1950s.
Nowadays, heritage is protected more through a range of means. Lottery money, National Trust ownership, listing and the heritage status conferred on certain places can all help preserve historic buildings. But so too can investment in transforming an old structure for new uses.
The latter often involves keeping key heritage aspects of a building, and that is exactly what is happening at the old Bath Press. The building, situated in the heart of the historic city, sports a frontage typical of Bath, with blonde sandstone blocks constructed in the neoclassical Palladian style of the Georgian era, a time when the same warm springs that had once attracted the Romans promoted the growth of the city as a spa resort. However, it has also lain idle for a decade.
All that is about to change, with Aberdeen Asset Management completing the purchase of the building and its surrounding land - five acres in all - from Meyer Homes last week. The company said work will begin "imminently" on demolishing part of the building, but not all of it; the frontage will be kept, along with the iconic chimney.
Construction will start in earnest in early 2018, with 244 apartments and houses being built, as well as 16,000 sq ft of office space and parking space for 204 cars. This will provide the city centre with new residential accommodation and commercial space. Head of UK Residential at Aberdeen Ed Crockett commented: "The Bath Press site provides us with an excellent opportunity to deliver a scheme of scale and quality in the under supplied and highly sought-after central Bath residential market."
In this case, the workers fitting insulation and waterproofing will mostly be working on new buildings and apartments. In other instances, such work will see the renovation of the structures from within, putting old buildings to new use with no discernible alteration to the exterior. The latter may be dictated by the listing of a building; the higher it is the less that can be done to alter its appearance.
The Bath Press project is being delivered for Aberdeen Asset Management by Sculpture Real Estate. Its director Jonathan Meier remarked: "With the backing of Aberdeen we will be re-developing this significant historic site that has stood derelict for over ten years.
"The history of the site and the city will come through in the quality of the finished product and will further regenerate this area of Bath."
A key reason for maintaining the appearance of the building is Bath's Unesco World Heritage status. Like Edinburgh's New Town, this has been conferred at least in part due to the Georgian sandstone architecture.
While this status does not require that all buildings in the area are built or maintained in a particular architectural style, it certainly helps if most of them are. Conversely, major alterations to the built environment can threaten World Heritage Status.
The Liverpool maritime port city is a case in point. Having only gained World Heritage status in 2004, it has been on the endangered list since 2012 due to what Unesco considers the unacceptable visual impact of major new steel and glass developments around the docks.