For our final day in Stowe we focused on the potential uses of heritage buildings. We had to select one of two heritage buildings to study in depth and suggest an alternative purpose. Our group selected the Queens Temple that is currently being used as an athletic equipment storage facility. The other option was the Menagerie which I will quickly summarize. The Menagerie was built in 1781 and now holds as the school shop. It would take approximately 1.7 million pounds to fully restore the building. In its current state, parts of the roof are caving in and there are large cracks in the foundations. The Menagerie was initially the private retreat of the Duchess of Buckingham and stored her aviary and orangery. It also functioned as a museum space to showcase the Duke’s collection.
The Queens Temple is similarly in a state of disrepair. Unlike the Menagerie, the Temple is in an isolated location – something we had to take into account in our activity. The Temple was completed in the 1740s and was later named Queens Temple in honour of Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. The interior was restored in the 1930s, however, immediate work needs to be completed. Tiles are falling off the ceiling and the structural foundations of the building require some work.
Our intended purpose for the Queens Temple was as follows. We divided our project into the four seasons each allowing for a slightly different use of the building. In summer, we suggested an artist in residence stay in the Temple and paint whatever inspires them. We were hoping, for example, this could be the landscape or the gardens. It would be nice to have an an alumni from the school as the first artist. This is because it would strengthen ties with the school. In the middle/towards the end of summer, the artist would hopefully create enough works to then have a small temporary exhibition. In autumn, the temporary exhibition could continue. The rooms on the bottom level of the Temple would function as Vocational Education and Training Rooms including, for example, a dark room for teaching photography. In winter, we suggested a small Christmas market be established outside the Temple with guests allowed to enter the Temple as they wish. Finally, in spring, the space could be used as a mini temporary exhibition space of the students’ artistic works or as a rehearsal space for the choir/band.
After finalizing our project we had to go through the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. An obvious strength of our intended purpose is that the activities we suggest link back to the original use of the house. Ladies of the Temple-Grenville family would use the Temple for arts and crafts. Our project also means the building could have a dual use being for both the school and the community. Weaknesses included a lack of profit made by the activities and the possibility that initial marketing would be difficult.
Opportunities for the project included the fact that the Queens Temple would be used all year round. It could also engage students and support the school curricula. We weren’t quite sure how to answer the threats section. We thought it could be an issue if too many visitors wished to visit. There is also the threat of damage from bumping in and out exhibitions.
We received good feedback on our presentation! It was quite an interesting activity as we have yet to really think about re-purposing heritage places. Maintaining that historical connection is incredibly important and something that should always be a priority. Otherwise, the intangible stories may be lost.