Thursday, 29 November 2007

Looking back at forward-lookers

My thought for the day broadcast on BBC Radio Bristol this morning:

Bath may well be a UNESCO World Heritage Site but these days much of it looks more like a bomb site. The city is going through a period of rapid change, and only yesterday plans were approved for a huge development at the Western Riverside site and a new extension to the Holburne Museum.
Many people are concerned that all this new development is not in keeping with the city’s character. However, we should remember that Georgian Bath was once a building site too. Richard Nash and both the elder and younger John Woods, the people who most radically changed Bath, are now the heroes of those who want to change it as little as possible.
This is a curious feature of almost all preservation movements: they revere a past which was all about transforming the future. They look backwards and meet the gaze of pioneers who had their eyes set resolutely forwards.
There is nothing paradoxical about this. It merely reflects the fact that there are times when we are better off sticking with what we’ve got and others when we need to move on and build something new.
In trying to work out which is which, it is worth knowing where one’s own biases lie. Some people don’t appreciate what they’ve got and are too ready to throw it all the way on the promise of something better. But others are too reluctant to let the past go, and reject a better future in favour of a familiar present. They forget that nothing is worth preserving that was not once created.
So how about you? Are you too conservative, not conservative enough, or do you have just the right balance? And how much can you change while still preserving your character?