Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Bridging the Heritage Gap in Bradford on Avon

A friend passed on through Twitter a link about a proposed new pedestrian bridge in historic Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. The Kingston Bridge is at the planning stage and the project is inviting comment from the public. Reading through the various submissions online:
it was interesting to see that many people were very keen to support the new modern look bridge, which will consist of a tall spire like structure radiating cables to form a dramatic crossing in an historic area within sight of the existing ancient stone bridge.
However there were several dissenting letters too, mainly arguing that such a modern structure was out of keeping with the area's older buildings and asking for a more historic looking design to suit the heritage feel of the town.
In my work, heritage needs to be balanced with modern day practicality. We do not necessarily want to destroy the feel of a place which has strong architectural links with the past with modern facilities and buildings, but nor should we wish to create pastiche everywhere and so rob future generations of their own heritage. Should the Kingston Bradford bridge go ahead as a modern design (and I would support the view that it should) it will serve to highlight and compliment the old around it, drawing attention to the past, not detracting from it and in itself become a representation of early 21st Century architecture for future generations. It may sound slightly silly to say that, but how else is heritage created? Heritage is only our common past, represented by actions, thought, and physical manifestation.
If you want to see a fascinating and successful blend of ancient and modern on a larger scale travel to Falaise Castle in Normandy. This castle, the birthplace of William the Conqueror was very damaged during World War 2 by Allied artillery and bombs as it had been occupied by the Germans. Whereas the French Castle in Sisteron, near the Alps was completely rebuilt after its destruction during the war to be as it had been before 1945 (and now looks like a medieval castle that has been there centuries) at Falaise the castle blends Norman stonework with glass and stainless steel. Glass floors allow light and vistas up and down, a steel drawbridge gives entrance to the keep and audio visual installations convey the history: the blend of architecture, 900 years apart, works extremely well. Have a look!
While not on the grand scale of a castle, Kingston Bridge should go ahead as a modern structure in an historic setting. As a heritage fan and business man working in the heritage environment I fully support the need to preserve our history and surroundings  but don't let this stop us from occasionally placing new structures amongst the old, otherwise we will deny ourselves the pleasure of tracing the evolution of architectural styles of our own time. It will result in stagnation and a lack of inspiration for the future. So I look forward to seeing the bridge built, complimenting the existing historic buildings in one of Wiltshire's most attractive and interesting towns.
Heritage is what we make of it. So let's occasionally create more!

Posted via email from copperphoenix's posterous

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