Our Daily Heritage
Conflicts and Opportunities When Renovating Residential Buildings Listed as Monuments
In the Netherlands there are few people who build their own homes. The majority of the population lives in a house that was built in the past. Designed and made with different ideas, for families with different wishes and habits to ours. The adaptation of homes for current times is therefore normal and necessary, and is a continuous process. In his book How to Make a Home, Edward Hollis compares the way in which people occupy a house with a cuckoo’s habits.1 This bird has made a speciality of taking possession of another bird’s nest and adapting it to its own needs. People alter, decorate and furnish in order to turn the house they encounter into a personal little nest.
However, other rules apply when this concerns a special ‘nest’. If a dwelling or residential building is listed as a monument, it is protected in the public interest because of its cultural-historical value. A home with a monumental status cannot simply be altered to meet contemporary residential preferences without further ado; the building (or sections of it) are ‘frozen’ in the past. This seems to be incompatible with the human desire to modify and appropriate a home. Does protected status stand in the way of habitation?