Special Interest Groups

Bob Franklin - new national Conservation Advisory Group Chair

We are delighted that Bob Franklin, until recently the inspirational Chair of the RIBA South Conservation Group, has been appointed as Chair of the RIBA Conservation Group. Bob writes of his hopes for the national and the regional Groups:

Much to my surprise, just over a year after joining a meeting of the central RIBA Conservation Group| (CG) to sell the idea of the Conservation Awards system that South has run so successfully for so long, I find myself appointed Chair of that Group. My appointment is partially accidental: Stuart Page, who runs the South East Conservation Group LINK would have been the natural successor to Janet Collings. However both Stuart and Janet, along with Hilary Bell, must step down for two years, due to time already served. Their temporary departures have left a much-diminished central representation of what we stand for. 

Conservation is about design

I feel that this is an opportunity to promote the newly established specialism in historic building skills to be much more broadly recognised, both inside and outside the RIBA: my main motivation being the frequent misapprehension that 'building conservation is not about design'. Conservation is of course entirely about design, alongside a deep awareness of history and knowledge of the limitations of building materials and techniques that are necessary for work to buildings of high historic value.

So this 'big idea' is nothing less than a change of perception, plus a drive towards enabling the RIBA to be seen as the natural home for everyone and everything to do with all architecture, not just the gilded few and the startlingly new.  

The revelation has been to find the heavy lifting already done by George Ferguson in setting up the CG, and the Conservation Register Steering Group under Dawson Stelfox. Doors are therefore opening all around; I have been privileged to find a welcome everywhere and a number of extremely accomplished new members willing to join in the vision for the CG. I now have a very strong team of energised and committed people with the broadest design base. We will be able to build up links with our friends and neighbours and give a much higher profile to the whole range of architectural skills that are found within the Institute: quality rather than fashion will be the main criterion.

New beginnings

However, I have already found that the time consumed has been enormous, and something has to give.  I am therefore delighted that Richard Ashby has agreed to take over the chairmanship of the South Conservation Group. Stuart and Robin Nugent will no doubt continue with the South East group, and there is room to explore more ways of sharing thoughts and events as we did on the RIBA South/South East Conservation Awards.  

The Awards will not proceed again in the same way. We now have the potential for a National Conservation Award, with all regions presenting Regional Conservation Awards into a single event in London to select the finest work of that year, ranging all the way through from Pure & Expert Repair to New Buildings in an Historic Context. Unfortunately we lack a major sponsor for Conservation Awards at present, so 2012 will be about Regional Awards and, needless to say, all suggestions for potential sponsors are very welcome.

My grateful thanks go to the staff and dedicated and incredibly skilful colleagues for their immeasurable support, willpower and sheer graft over the years. I am certain that the South and South East groups will go from strength to strength as a model for all the regions to follow.






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