Appointment to the Regional Council for the Preservation of Historic Buildings

30.03.2017 - Notes

Astrid Wuttke, a member of the Board of Directors at schneider+schumacher, has been appointed to Hessen’s Regional Council as a representative for the Chamber of Architects and Town Planners (AKH). The Regional Council for the Preservation of Historic Buildings advises and supports Hessen’s State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts in all aspects involving the protection of historic buildings. Astrid Wuttke has already worked on this topic as chairman of the AKH working group "Architects working on listed and existing buildings". As an architect at schneider+schumacher her work also involves renovating listed buildings – such as the West Building of the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, and the exhibition building at the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt.  

What do you consider to be particularly important when working with listed buildings?

I think it is important not only to respect the listed building but also to transpose it to this day and age. Buildings ought not turn into museums of themselves: they should go on being used and should fit into our present world – yet without losing their original character. I’m also concerned with highlighting buildings from the so-called “unloved modernist period” – the 1950s to 1970s – and in reawakening an interest in this era. These buildings are the subject of public controversy and often a listing is the only way they can be saved from the demolition hammer. We need to think about how they can both gain public acceptance and be transformed for today’s world.

What is the greatest challenge for architects dealing with listed buildings?

As architects, preserving a listed building is one aspect of many others we have to take into account when planning our projects – for instance building costs, client comfort, fire protection and energy efficiency. It is often difficult to convey just how much it will add to the cost of a project when you incorporate a listed building, and to be appropriately remunerated for this work. One often needs to adopt a highly idealistic approach.

How does working with listed buildings need to be improved?

Besides historic building concerns, it is important to take architectural issues into account. Often listed building authorities want to hang on to an original element – for fear of making a mistake by permitting something new. This attitude stems from the time when buildings were primarily constructed of large slabs of stone. It becomes more difficult, for example, when you are dealing with buildings from the 1950s to 1970s, when facades were constructed of components that needed to be replaced when they reached the end of their life. For instance, at the former American Consulate in Frankfurt we had to completely renew the façade, but we chose to employ materials and methods that were similar to the original design, so that the “spirit of the building” could be preserved.

A final comment on this topic?

Alongside having respect for listed buildings we need to be bold about innovation too. This was, for example, how we approached building both the extension to the Städel Museum and the new Study and Conference Centre at the Mannheim Business School, which is currently reaching completion.

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