Extending a Listed Building – problem or opportunity? Part Two

Another extension, but in a very different context.

This one a new Lounge to the rear of a substantial sandstone villa in Glasgow, Scotland, completed last year. The existing building is not Listed, but it is in a Conservation Area. This extension illustrates a completely different response to a historic building. It is an ‘intervention style’ extension, where what one does is try to contrast the extension to the existing building as much as possible. Obviously there is skill needed here, as contrasting extensions can easily denigrate or overwhelm the existing historic building if they are too ‘shouty’. Yet this is an approach much loved of Planners and Architects, as it allows one to easily visually separate the old from the new, and there is little chance of the ingratiating characterless copy of the existing as can easily happen wit the ‘playing the game’ type of extension.

The extension in Glasgow has a flat roof in order to simplify what could have been quite a messy set of roof junctions were it pitched roofed. We also wanted to use a flat roof to give the extension a contemporary feel so enhancing the sense of this extension being a contrast to the existing. Moreover the wall material is very different to the existing – it is largely timber – in this case untreated Douglas Fir left to go silver with time. All of these aspects make it look like something very different to the existing, but something in sympathy with the existing building rather than a shouty ‘look at me’ extension that would detract from the existing building. Honestly, it is a self-effacing as we could make it!

The Planners supported this extension too. Their Planning Report said ‘the concept of the proposed extension may be supported in
terms of Policy in that it is of quality, innovative design.. providing a contemporary yet complementary modern addition to the traditional stone property.’ Note here that the Planners are stating their support for an ‘intervention’ – i.e. contrasting style of extension. Not all extensions to historic buildings need to be of ‘playing the game’ type. Quite often an ‘intervention’ style may be a more successful approach, depending upon the individual circumstances of the building. But it is important to remember that ‘intervention’ style extensions still need to show respect to the existing building, and not dominate or distract attention from it.

So there you have it. Two very different ways a historic building can be successfully extended without sullying its character. ‘playing the game’ or ‘intervention style’.

If you have a Listed building or a building in a Conservation Area don’t be afraid of extending it. A sensitively designed and built extension will prolong the useful life of a historic building and can actually add to and reinforce its character, and these are two very good good things for the historic building.

Peter King RIAS ARB Architect

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