We ask readers to share their visions of the construction industry in 25 years’ time. Here, Jon Wright hopes we will learn to take better care of our post-war buildings

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B175 thought for tomorrow

Jon Wright Purcell

The idea that we treat post-war architecture differently from buildings of all other periods, in heritage terms, has been a prevalent and damaging force in conservation for too long. Taste for architecture, unlike fashion, takes time to form, and many buildings from the recent past have inevitably got lost before the wheel has turned far enough to reach the point of general acceptance. 

We will more fully understand that 1945-79 represented a truly golden age for British architecture

Listing is the front line of this, and while the fight still goes on over buildings like Dunelm House in Durham, no one can assuredly say that taste has swung fully for brutalism – arguably the poster-boy style of post-war modernism.

While listing is vital, of at least equal importance is the understanding those tasked with the care of these buildings have for the architecture. What needs to happen if post-war buildings are to be treated on a par with other buildings is a greater, more widespread understanding of the achievements of the period. 

Our understanding of just how good British architecture was in the post-war years is continuing to evolve as scholarship and popular opinion progress. Nowhere, arguably, has crystallised this shift better than in the regeneration of Sheffield’s Park Hill estate, which by the time it is completed may track three or four major shifts in the way that we approach, conserve and repair post-war fabric. This might leave a disjointed-looking scheme, but it will also chart an important shift. In 25 years, we will more fully understand that 1945-79 (give or take a few years) represented a truly golden age for British architecture, and we will have evolved much more sophisticated approaches than we currently employ to conserving and caring for it for the next generation.

Do you have a Thought for Tomorrow? Just send your name, job title and company, and 250 words to building@building.co.uk, with the heading “Building Your Future”, answering these questions:

  • What would you like the construction industry to look like in 25 years’ time?
  • And what needs to change to make that happen?