There has been growing disquiet about the reach and restrictive nature of historic area controls in recent years, with some critics arguing that UNESCO listings of historic cities, for example, leads to a kind of “urbanicide.” Conversely, some preservation advocates have been alarmed by the tendency for cities to encourage and support architecturally alien interventions in highly valued and formally recognized historic areas. Consequently, there is an emerging discussion around the level of deference that is appropriate in such places and about the degree of aesthetic disjunction and difference that should be tolerated. This paper proposes, however, that the issue cannot be satisfactorily resolved by resorting only to character guidelines, nor solely to conservation methodology or planning rules of thumb. While the outcome is paramount, we argue that it is an ethic of participation in the context, rather than a required aesthetic, that better drives new architectural projects in valued historical environments.
This paper explores this proposition by considering two recent projects by the small Australian practice, OOF! Architecture. Both are situated within conservation areas. One takes a kind of architectural found object, the remnants of a decaying two-storey timber cottage, and sews it into a new architectural project. The other deploys a prevalent brickwork tradition to produce an architectural super-graphic that very literally initiates a dialogue with the neighborhood. These projects serve to illustrate the formal and cultural potential of a reanimated concept of architectural participation in historical places.
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