My Trusty summer job

As you may know, I’m working again this summer at Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust. I was there last summer for four weeks, and they’ve kindly asked to have me back again this summer for another five.

After my second day back at the Trust, I thought I’d take a moment to write an update about my time there so far.

Well, the first couple of days have sadly been marred somewhat by me feeling under the weather with a bit of a cold. That can’t be helped though, and being ill rarely comes with good timing. Luckily I’ve been treated gently by the familiar faces who seem happy to have me back, and I’ve had some time to reacquaint myself with not just the Trust office, but with the history of Hampstead Garden Suburb itself. It’s a fascinating place, and everywhere you turn there are names, dates and documents to investigate. For someone like me, it’s a joy.

Touching on social history, cartography, town planning, design and much more, everything associated with the Suburb seems fascinating to me. Although the Trust obviously also deals with rather more mundane issues such as road re-surfacing and solving disputes with residents, it all forms a whole which stands for preserving the Suburb for future generations to enjoy it in the same way as it has been for the past century.

While those aforementioned more routine tasks take place around me, I’ve been left to explore photographs, documents and information pertaining to all aspects of the Suburb. As with daily life at the Trust office, already my primary tasks have changed, and I have spent most of my time poring over images for inclusion in a very important document – the Design Guidance.

Last updated in 1994, the Design Guidance document (available in its current, revised 2010 edition here) details, as much as possible, what sort of architectural work is allowed to take place on the Suburb. It lists adaptations that residents are likely to want to make (such as extensions or replacement windows and doors), and gives examples of how best to achieve these while keeping the building in sync with the rest of the area. With such a well-preserved collection of some 5,000 buildings, it’s vital to ensure that the right methods and materials are being used, and that the fabric and look of individual buildings doesn’t change too much. Only by doing so can the Suburb hope to remain as beautiful as it always has been.

As well as selecting images to illustrate the Design Guidance document, I’ve been finding out about a walking tour which will take place tomorrow, taking  a hundred Year 7 students on a walk around the centre of the Suburb. The students are from the girls’ grammar school on the Suburb’s Central Square, The Henrietta Barnett School, named after the amazing woman who first devised the Suburb a hundred years ago. Lauren Geisler will be delivering a lecture about the Suburb with regards to its geography and, along with various Trust staff and volunteers, I’ll be assisting in taking smaller groups on the walk itself.

I hope I can get rid of this blasted cold soon, but meanwhile I’m still getting used to the commute and life in a 9-5 job. It’s a bit of a change from the last few months of my life, I’ll tell you that.

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