Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace and Gardens
Last Monday for my course in 'Aspects of Architectural and Urban Development' we took a day trip to Hampton Court.  It is one of the many royal palaces here in England and is a must see for all interested in gardening/landscape practices of the sixteenth century to present.  The history of the palace itself may also be of great interest to those interested in architectural trends during those periods.  The property boasts multiple breathtaking gardens, but the must see attraction is the Privy Garden.  It is the most intricate and conversational part of the property.  Hampton Court has been open to the public since 1838 when Queen Victoria ordered that the palace should be open to the public without restriction and free of charge.  This not only changed the atmosphere of the property, but it also required that a much more careful eye be kept on the condition of the property.  Since then people have flooded to Hampton Court to partake in a piece of history that was once only privileged to royals and their guests.

While this is an amazing property, and one that lends to the overall character of England and its history, it is important that it be looked at for what it is.  Although the gardens are the main attraction for most people visiting the palace they are in fact the most unauthentic parts of the property.  While visiting it is easy to become entrapped by the beauty and forget that they are in their current condition yet another part of the lengthy and ever changing history of the property.  There is no guarantee that the next overseer of the property will not through research and other determining factors decide that this is not actually the most historically accurate representation.

So with this in mind one has to ask themselves what are the determining factors in what is the most historically intriguing period of the garden's history.  What is the precipice upon which they decide what should be represented?  What makes one period more worthy than another to be represented to the public?  These are a few of questions that a viewer of this and any other restored property might find themselves wondering.

It is an intriguing argument that could be presented as to what restoration really means.  A property like Hampton Court has undergone so many changes throughout the course of its history that one period becomes just as historically significant as the last.  Restoration really is done based on a matter of opinion because one person is not necessarily qualified to discount or determine the importance of one period over another.

It can sometimes seem as if in the effort to "restore" what actually ends up happening is the destruction  of current and although not original still very significant history.  It can be said that is the problem with historic preservation.  It is so focused on the past that it fails to recognize the recent as something that will one day be considered  historically significant.  The idea of preservation is not only to preserve what is old, but to remember the impact of each period of change and transformation.  Each period of change is not to be looked at as a blemish or scar on the original, but as an addition and extension to the original history.  Preservation is all about the recognition and appreciation of the preexisting.  Love it or hate it.  

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