It's an age-old question: What history do we preserve? The British English Heritage list has a 30-year requirement for most historic buildings to be considered, and now postwar architecture is getting its turn. The fate of several postmodern buildings is before the British culture minister, Margaret Hodge, and some developers are questioning the buildings' value while preservationists are fearful that brutalist, concrete mammoths could be downed.
Tom Dyckhoff, architecture critic at The Times, sees three buildings on the British culture minister's radar that warrant concern: Richard Rogers' Lloyds of London building, the U.S. Embassy by Eero Saarinen, and Alison and Peter Smithson's Robin Hood Gardens housing block. He cites an article minister Hodge recently wrote in Grand Designs magazine where she says, "It's fair enough to protect one or two examples of present architecture but, because they cannot take—let alone pass—the test of time, scrutiny in other areas needs to be tougher, I believe." Hodge, who rose through the ranks from Parliament to the ministry, is against classifying some buildings, pointing to the need to change or to tear down structures to make them viable in the community. Many experts say there are examples of registered buildings being reused, and depending on the classification granted on the list, a building can be greatly altered to support new uses.
While Hodge is deciding what to do, the British Government is considering taking the decision-making power from the minister and giving it to English Heritage. In the meantime, don't worry. Hodge has a plan for the buildings that may be lost: "This is the 21st century—a perfect digital image of the building, inside and out could be retained forever."