History is the study of change through time, and is narrative in structure. A genuinely historic building is also narrative in structure, and thus as much future facing as past facing.
A building valued only for its past ceases to be historic; removed from the flow of history, its life drains away and it becomes a monument. To remain historic, ancient buildings can, should, and indeed must, be allowed to change.
Of course not all change is good. For conservation to be credible it must address a fatal omission by developing a means of judging good change from bad. Change itself should not be feared as a threat, but welcomed as evidence of life.
Ancient buildings provide a model; many have changed every generation. Change is in their nature, and has given them their character. It is their lifeblood, a lifeline that binds them to their community. Who would wish to obstruct it?
SCARAB sees ancient buildings as ICONs –Intergenerational, Communal and Ongoing Narratives. Each generation writes a chapter in the communal story; in writing ours, we have a duty to enrich the plot and move it forward, while allowing space for future generations to write their chapters.
A narrative approach opposes the privileging of one particular historic period over any other. Old is not necessarily more important than new. What is essential is to safeguard character, continuity, and the coherence of the whole. We should expect change to be subtractive as well as additive; otherwise, over time, any building will choke and die.
The alternative, to stop the narrative through the sclerosis of preservation, dishonours the past and dispossesses the future; this ahistoricism is the death of conservation, and of culture.