Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Director's Notes - June 2011

Monthly update from EWH Director Adam Wilkinson.

Jun 22, 2011

In the last couple of weeks, on holidays and travels south, I visited two contrasting villages, one in Worcestershire and one in the shadow of Cader Idris, both intensely pretty. The contrasts were not only in the architecture – the timber framed vernacular that formed the basis of Freddie Charles’ splendid books, and a slate mining village with high quality terraced homes – but also in the survival of detail. In the Welsh village, practically every window was plastic framed, in the Worcestershire village, only post-war houses had modern fenestration.

Repairing, restoring or conserving detail and getting it right is a difficult matter but one which is important to the understanding of a place, and of the story it has to tell: what do the different forms of cast iron railing on Northumberland Street tell us about those who designed and built the street? Lose these and you lose the living connection to the past. We are heartened by the excellent work the city’s lighting department has put into recreating historic street lights to replace defunct concrete standards. It has been a pleasure to work with them and we hope that the partnership will continue. Should you have a chance to walk down William Street in the West End you will see the fruits of their labours.

Ensuring the detail is right does not, however, preclude new additions to the historic environment, be it ours in Edinburgh or in one of those villages – from carefully designed houses through to a lovely 1960s vernacular design for a railway station above the Welsh village. It is with this notion in mind that we celebrate the reopening of the Scotsman Steps, following a challenging repair project and the installation of Martin Creed’s fabulous marble steps – a careful, arresting and enticing addition.

We do see less welcome additions to the historic environment, and it is the responsibility of us all to keep track of these: individually they may seem minor but together they can have a real impact. All the unpleasantness of such changes, however, is undone by the pleasure of hosting and helping run the Heritage Detectives project, in partnership with Circle Scotland and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. On Fridays, our office at No 5 Charlotte Sq reverberates with the noise of children from the most challenging backgrounds (though you wouldn’t know it and we certainly don’t treat them as such) happily engaged in an exploration, physical and metaphorical, or their historic city.

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