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Re-Storying the Workhouse: An Alternative Conservation Strategy

Part 2 Project 2015
Gemma Wheeler
Cardiff University | UK
The patchwork of new building materials spliced into old tells the story of Bewdley’s adaptation to change. Informed by Ruskin’s legacy of “anxious care”, however, Bewdley’s conservation policy sees buildings as “heritage assets” that must be preserved. This thesis questions the staticising foundations upon which Bewdley’s building conservation rests and proposes extracting an alternative Ruskinian influence to enable buildings to flow and change with their users’ changing needs.

Ruskin advocated a way of seeing the world that focused either on its minutiae of shifting details or sweeping drama of the sublime, capturing in his own and Turner’s paintings a worldview without boundaries or objects. It is this way of seeing that forms the basis of an Alternative Conservation Strategy which sees Form demoted and supplanted by Material, Use and Narrative, to enable Bewdley’s buildings to be ‘re-storied’.

The focus for this exercise is on turning Bewdley’s derelict, Grade II Listed, C18th Workhouse into an Adult Education Centre. The strategy is facilitated by Ruskin’s ‘unsightly aid’ that is reinterpreted from prop or shoring device, into a series of oak frames over which the Workhouse’s existing brick can be stretched; redefining, in the process, the traditional intradependence between brick and timber.

Gemma Wheeler

Kate Darby
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