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Concepts of History: Queensberry House, 1997-2004

Part 2 Dissertation 2008
James White
Edinburgh College of Art Edinburgh UK
This dissertation sets out to evaluate the policy adopted by Historic Scotland in the treatment of Queensberry House in the Scottish Parliament project (1997-2004), in the context of the history and theory of architectural conservation. Guidelines issued by the Scottish government in the treatment of historic fabric and architectural heritage are analysed, as well as methods employed in the practical application of policy to practice in the case of high profile historically-sensitive Crown estate projects. The practical, theoretical and symbolic implications of the treatment of external and internal fabric at Queensberry House are set in the context of national and international conservation policies.
The study begins with an analysis of key decisions finalised by Historic Scotland in May 2000: externally, regarding the proposed restoration of Queensberry House to its pre-1700 appearance, which included the use of pantiles on the roof “on aesthetic grounds"; internally, regarding the re-instatement of a historic seventeenth-century enfilade, in the context of heightened structural requirements inherent in the proposed ‘reuse’ of Queensberry House as a government building. Two distinct approaches to the treatment of Queensberry House’s fabric are therefore identified: on the one hand, the historically-aestheticized nature of the external treatment; on the other, the pragmatic yet historically-aware internal treatment. Both approaches would be, at least in principle,informed by extensive archaeological and documentary research carried out by Addyman & Kay and John Lowrey from 1998 onwards. Each would however lead to stark contrasts in the treatment of external and internal fabric at Queensberry House. The practical, theoretical and symbolic implications of each approach are analysed alongside the strategy of ‘adaptive reuse’ advocated by John Hume, former Chief Inspector of Historic Buildings (1993-1999) at Historic Scotland. Of particular interest in this study is the selection of specific terminology in defining an architectural philosophy in the context of the history of architectural conservation and current best-practice guidelines in the field.

James White

Our purpose in asking Diploma students to write dissertations as if they were submitting an article for a refereed journal is to focus their thinking on real issues, in the hope that the result will be a leaner piece of writing. This student fulfilled the brief to the letter: besides researching the wealth of published and unpublished sources on Queensberry House, he interviewed many of the key players and then analysed the confusion over conservation terminology, with a precision suggesting that should he not want to pursue architecture, he would do well to consider law. ‘Queensberry House’ could be published as it stands.

Ian Campbell
Professor of Architectural History and Theory
eca Edinburgh College of Art

Ian Campbell
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