Conservation of buildings from the recent past: an investigation into England’s legacy of post-war social housing and its heritage value
thesisposted on 11.05.2016, 12:56 by Julie Moss
After World War II (WWII) Britain was responsible for much of the early pioneering, multi-storey architecture and British architects designed some of the best social housing in the world. This formed part of an extraordinary drive for modernisation and it was an important instrument in comprehensive architectural reform. Although multi-storey housing accounted for only 20% of all approvals between 1963-7, it has come to epitomise the post-War era and 'modem living’. These buildings are now a paradox. Rather than being at the forefront of a new ideology they now form part of our built legacy. Their consideration as heritage appears highly contentious and has resulted in differing public, professional and political opinion. Despite both the Government and English Heritage recognising that they are facing acute redevelopment pressures, their heritage designation is vastly under-represented and without heritage classification they have no protection against the perceived threats. This thesis proposes that there are underlying factors hindering the heritage protection of Post-WWII social housing and that for the few that have attained heritage classification there is an inconsistent approach to their protection basis. It aims to identify, therefore, the problems associated with its conservation so that action can be recommended to help improve its protection. This will be achieved by examining a series of case studies that will show how Modern post-WWII social housing is being preserved and brought into the conservation arena; it will highlight the perceived threats that are hindering its conservation; it will assess whether it presents different conservation requirements and demands an alternative methodology than that for buildings from earlier periods; it will evaluate how Modernism’s origins and objectives have a bearing on the conservation aims; and it will analyse how these buildings are being conserved to preserve their architectural and historical significance and also ensure they remain economically and socially viable to meet society’s current needs.