When is it time to let go?

We all love old houses don’t we? And we should do everything that we can to save them, shouldn’t we? Well, not always, Catherine Bennett argued in the Observer yesterday.

We all love old houses don’t we? And we should do everything that we can to save them, shouldn’t we? Well, not always, Catherine Bennett argued in the Observer yesterday

She is talking about the National Trust’s decision to rebuild Clandon Park, all but destroyed in a fire in April.

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The organisation did something similar with the far more significant Uppark when that sufferered a similar fate, and seems to think it is ‘only fair’ to do the same for Clandon Park.

But, Bennett argues, we really should question this. It may be time to accept that buildings have a finite life, that recreating just can’t be the same as preserving, and that the National Trust should concentrate its efforts on issues ‘such as safeguarding more land from Osborne-energised developers’. 

Architects may see parallels with the planned recreation of the library at the fire-ravaged Glasgow school of art, but that it is a different matter. That is a unique space by a genius in a building that is largely intact. Doubtless there will be much discussion once the work is complete about how much of the original spirit has been maintained. But that is a risk that has to be run to give us back something so precious. Is that the case with Clandon Park? Probably not.

Ruth Slavid

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