Monumentum, Autumn 2012
“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” Churchill, in one of his less well-known phrases, gets to the heart of an important issue for us. The art of building needs tradi - tion and continuity to maintain a harmony and sense of place, even though we need new designs with phrases of architectural language that entertain and invigorate us. So it is with ‘conservation’. But it’s a corpse-like term for what we do. Conserving- keeping things as they are- is worthy in prolonging the life of beautiful things, but as an end in itself it mummifies the past. In fact, a typical World Monuments Fund project ‘conserves’ a site or its arts as only the first step of a process.
Our ultimate business is the transformation of faded liabilities into beautiful assets. We need a new word for that. Invigoration, or revitalisation might suffice. Our new project at Coventry Cathedral is the first new major project in my five-year tenure, explained on page 2. Keeping the cracking remains of St Michael’s standing was essential. But so was planning for its better use and display, especially when set in the broader context of the historic heart of the city. As we took on its im - portant collection of dirty and hidden medieval glass, we felt we had to show that ‘conservation’ leads to opportunity. So we were delighted that Crick-Smith Conservation at the University of Lincoln share that ethos and were keen to bring their work into the heart of Coventry, and on public display.
Now, people can see the beauty of the glass art, enjoy its transformation and discuss how it can contribute to the life, pride and opportunities of the city. In the public eye, nobody is better than Kevin McCloud to rep - resent the issue of how the language and tradition of craft interact with quality innovations. A previous speaker for us, we were de - lighted that Kevin has agreed to become Ambassador of WMF Britain in March. His profound appreciation for the meaning of places, and our mission to revitalise them, has brought us a natural ally as we make progress at Coventry. As he wrote in Grand Designs magazine, “Don’t think that […] the ruins are an irrelevant encumbrance to the city centre. They are the opposite: they are the foundations on which the storytelling of the city is built. That story would be worth the money.” Well, beat that for a turn of phrase. And if you can’t beat us, join us