Monday, 28 October 2013

Georgian Group Architectural Awards / Shortlist / Restoration of a Georgian Building in an Urban Setting

-->We are all well aware these days of the key rôle that historic buildings play in urban regeneration, and part of the purpose of this award is to acknowledge the contribution made by restored Georgian buildings to the quality and vitality of our towns and cities. Restoration often involves a degree of compromise and occasionally we have to accept some departure from the absolute ideal so that threatened buildings can be wrested from the dire circumstances in which they languish. It is all too easy for the best to be the enemy of the good and for dogmatism to have the opposite effect to that intended, so some latitude is often needed. As usual, competition in this category was especially fierce.

We shortlisted three projects. The first, in Liverpool, is an 1820s house in Great Mersey Street: the only Georgian building left in the once-affluent Kirkdale area of the city, between the docks and Everton. Its unfortunate singularity says something about the degree of attrition suffered by Liverpool’s Georgian heritage in relatively recent years. As we at the Georgian Group are daily aware, the threats continue, sometimes caused by a flush of investment no less than by penury. This building was in atrocious condition and on the buildings at risk register by 2003, having been disused and vandalised since the 1970s and burnt by arsonists in 1993. Breeze-blocked windows and security fencing bespoke a building in dire straits. An urgent works notice was served by Liverpool City Council in 2007, providing the catalyst for an HLF-funded project that has restored the envelope and reinstated the cast iron area railings. Internally, lost and damaged fabric has been recreated and repaired, with the staircase accurately modelled using details from the charred original. So many of this type of solid late-Georgian building in Liverpool have gone that it is a cause for rejoicing that this one, the last in Kirkdale, has survived.      

Secondly we have 116 High Street in Boston, Lincolnshire, a 1728 merchant’s townhouse, later a bank, that by the end of the twentieth century was in deplorable condition, its gardens concreted over and the house officially at risk and near to collapse. As in Liverpool, there was decisive intervention by the local authority, in this instance Boston Borough Council, which compulsorily purchased the building and transferred it to a building preservation trust for restoration. The facade has been impressively conserved, its handsome street presence now boosting rather than sapping civic pride, and lost fittings reinstated internally. The building has been fitted out for office use and modest premises for small businesses have been created in the grounds, giving a fillip to a part of Boston marooned by a 1960s inner ring road.   

Finally in this category we have Mostyn House in Denbigh, a 1722 townhouse restored by John Franklin in partnership with Denbighshire County Council: again, the local authority has contributed hugely, in this instance through the Townscape Heritage Initiative, to finding a solution to a longstanding, intractable problem. And again a woefully abused Georgian building has sprung back to life, embellishing an important streetscape where it previously stood as a kind of standing reproach. The street elevation has been returned to its original appearance, with the removal of pebbledash and accumulated excrescences, notably a later oriel window to the first floor and bay windows to the ground floor, that detracted from its appearance. The façade is now a satisfying deep limewash. Internally, lost oak panelling and a missing section of oak staircase have been re-created. A depressing ‘problem’ building has been transformed into something uplifting.   

The awards will be presented by The Marquess of Salisbury on the evening on 29 October 2013.

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