A NEWSPAPER headline the other day managed to distract me from the Brexit farce. “Designer’s studio ‘may be demolished’” it said, running a photo of Bernat Klein, the renowned Serbian fashion designer, alongside his once-beautiful studio, near Selkirk. I say once beautiful but in fact, even in the dismal state in which it now lies, the Bernat Klein Studio, built by architect Peter Wormersley in 1972, is still impressive. It just takes a bit of imagination to picture it as it once was.

Its current owner says that the A-listed building is in the process of being repaired after serious water damage in 2011, and that he intends to be living in it by Christmas. Experts, however, take a less optimistic view. One, Susan Hallsworth, believes that if it is not immediately repaired, within a decade it will be beyond saving. Meanwhile, Scottish Borders Council is liaising with the proprietor over the ongoing renovation, and progress thereof.

Since the studio has been designated “At Risk” by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the agency that protects the country’s most historically valuable buildings and properties, we should remain hopeful that, with so many concerned eyes upon it, the studio will be resuscitated in the nick of time. But it is not a certainty, and as many at HES must doubtless feel, it should not have been allowed to fall into such a state in the first place.

Lately I have learned a great deal about some of our most priceless properties, be they country houses or castles, sheep pens or coal mines. Ask me the dimensions of the Titan Crane on Clydebank, and I could reel them off. Want to discuss the visionary genius of Charlotte Square in Edinburgh? I’ll give it a go. I could even hold forth, if required, on the origins and functions of corrugated iron, a subject I never realised was so gripping.

Read more: MSP call for public inquiry into GSA fire

All this has been for a book called The A-List, about 50 of the most fascinating properties on this register. One of them, of course, is the Bernat Klein Studio. This elegant, light-filled construction is a delightful example of the modernist work of Wormersley, among whose other structures are the – in my opinion ugly – football stand for Fairydean FC in Galashiels, to which architects flock from all over the world.

Yet while the Klein Studio is of the architectural first-rank, it is also a landmark in the story of the Borders textile industry. A vital part of our industrial legacy, it’s a reminder of the boost that Klein, whose tweeds and textiles were picked up by the likes of Chanel and Dior, gave to a region whose mills were almost as dilapidated when he arrived in the 1950s as his studio looks today.

The role of HES in preserving our built environment goes on largely unseen and, as the studio shows, being placed on the A-list does not guarantee a building’s safety. If only. How painful to think that, with the exception of Edinburgh Castle, probably our most famous single building was the Glasgow School of Art. It was A-listed, yet still appears not to have been taken care of properly. That magnificent, inspiring edifice ought to have been one of the cornerstones of the A-list, yet now it is a blackened shell.

The Government’s culture committee, tasked with examining the fires that destroyed Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, came to the conclusion that there should be a public inquiry. More interestingly, it also advocated that HES be given powers to compel owners or custodians to safeguard celebrated buildings.

An inquiry, sadly, won’t bring back the school, but enhancing the authority with which HES can act would be a step in the right direction. At the moment, as with any listed building, custodians of the A-list cannot make structural changes without permission. It’s a protracted and restricting procedure, which probably makes some deeply regret their purchase. Yet while these are necessary and important safeguards, there are none, it seems, that allow HES to step in and prevent ruination. As the examples of the Glasgow School of Art and the Bernat Klein Studio make abundantly plain, this has to change, and fast.

If the A-list (and other historic monuments) are deemed a crucial part of the nation’s heritage, upkeep ought to be a legal obligation on all caretakers. If this proves unreasonably expensive, then financial assistance should be available. Otherwise who would ever buy somewhere with a roof bigger than a coal shed, or with acres of harling that might not last another winter?

To be honest, I can think of few things more thrilling than living in a slice of history – ideally a Border keep. It would be a heavy responsibility, but also a privilege. Who cares if it’s impossible to install a power shower or stairlift? Our time on this earth is fleeting. As with the land under our feet, we are not lords and masters of our venerable houses or castles, merely – as goes the advert for a pricey range of watches – taking care of them for future generations.