TODAY, in many developed societies, especially in Europe, the built environment is dominatednot by outright modernity but by ‘old’ buildings and ensembles. These are known under a vast range of names: conservation, historic preservation, listed buildings, heritage, historic monuments,

Denkmalpflege, patrimoine, Altstadt, centro storico, monuments classés, World Heritage Site, and so

forth. Most people simply take this situation for granted and, in the most general terms, assume it

to be not only a natural but a good thing. Any debates and controversies tend to be confined to

relatively narrow circles of interest groups. These tend to focus either on the problems of individual

monuments, or on hackneyed confrontations between intransigent conservationists railing against

‘vandalism’ and ‘threat’, and developer-led groups, indignant at hole-in-corner obstruction of

‘progress’, or at towns turned to ‘museums’ or ‘Disney pastiche’. Yet change is unavoidable, even in

the most cherished places. And conservation clearly plays an intimate part in that wider process of

development and change in the existing built environment – a process that affects everyone in