Adaptive Re-Use of Old Buildings

We ended last week describing how mixing home, work, culture and recreation, rather than separating them by regulation is the key to creating 21st century cities. Inherited environments almost always have part of that urban mix already. This week we will deal with some of the most important ways of preserving the valuable qualities of older cities. Historic preservation is the practice that conserves, redevelops and interprets these environments. We will discuss topics such as landmarks and historic districts, adaptive re-use of old buildings, and preserving the industrial heritage. The first session deals with landmarks and historic districts: recognizing and listing historic buildings, and the public policy and design tools that help city designers preserve and regulate historic environments. But historic preservation is not just about congealing a place in time. While a curatorial approach to preservation restores buildings to specific periods, the urbanistic tradition of preservation seeks to preserve the whole place and life, while promoting economic vitality. As we reduce, reuse and recycle waste, so we can give buildings a new life when their use expires. This is what we call adaptive reuse: to give a disused building a new purpose in order to help prolong its lifespan, instead of outright demolition. Adaptive reuse helps preserve a building’s heritage features and ensures them for future generations. How can we adapt historic structures such as churches, palaces, and houses to the needs of the present, without destroying their authenticity? Old industrial buildings are often unique spaces. Built to withstand heavy industrial processes, and to accommodate large equipment, they often have thick walls, high ceilings, and exposed structures that give this rugged industrial look that is now all too fashionable. But as cities move from an industrial to post-industrial economy, what to do with our historic factories, warehouses and power stations? We will look at some of the most important examples of preserving and adapting our industrial heritage. Finally, toward the end of this week we will select some of your second assignments and review them.

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