DECADENCE in BUILDINGS

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‘A building reflects the society or the community in which it survives. The condition and quality of the buildings reflect, the public pride or indifference, the level of prosperity, social values and behaviour, political confirmation, and all those Influences that give community the unique character. Decayed buildings depress the creative urge and generate anti social behaviour.’

Buildings age and show signs of decay. Decadence in buildings is both, Real and Sensorial. Real or physical decadence is structurally causative, and can be measured. Sensorial decadence is merely perceptive and often being subjective is difficult to define.

The decadence in a building can have different meaning to different people, or for the same people in different situations. Decay is judged by both, local people and outsiders or visitors. Those who stay in or near the building are continually involved with it and so do not realize the changes setting in the building, or even in its surroundings. They may not perceive decay of minor scale or slowly occurring small changes.

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Bathroom-Toilet structures at Lothal, India > Wikipedia image by Bernard Gagnon

Outsiders visiting a building often accept a decay as a nominal ageing process, and may not be bothered with it. However, frequent visitors immediately observe the accumulated changes. When local people realize the decay in a building, it may have reached the terminal or non-recoverable stage. Then the confidence in stability of the building is shaken and the end of property seems well within the sight.

  • A change in a building is perceived only in the context of something that is non-changing or having a very fast or slow pace of change. An entire street may look decayed if some of the buildings within it are less decayed, or when the street is seen in the context of a neighbourhood which may have been rejuvenated, or may have decayed further.

Decay is a natural process, accelerated by some climatic and use- related conditions. It may be arrested temporarily or perhaps reversed by specific actions, but never eliminated completely. It is nominally presumed that the processes of ageing should be faster in buildings that are intensively used (over-used) and extensively abused (misused).

Inversely it is also wrongly believed that decaying processes are slower or lower in buildings not at all used, sparingly used, or carefully used. Historical monuments with blocked visitations are often neglected, compared to ones regularly visited by tourists, care-takers or public.

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Hiroshima Peace Memorial SW Side  – Arrested decay or conserved state > Wikipedia image by SElefant

Historical buildings that are well connected to the local people by way of religious reverence, known fables and mythological links, locational advantage, distinction of style, are likely to be better cared.

For commercial properties decadence gets noticed because it directly affects the ‘function-activity system’, as for example in less sale or clientèle, reduced value, or productivity.

Historical buildings need to be part of the human settlements. For these such buildings should be well connected, visible and participatory. Remote buildings though cannot be brought back to the human settlements can have good connectivity. Where the scale or the interest is smaller, Time and Space must be enhanced with some form of ancillary facilities such as information centre, museum or time-pass activities.

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Abandoned workshop France > Wikipedia image by Gregory Kerouac

Conservation (or preservation) and Restorations are acceptable for buildings with heritage value. But some form of regulated conversion may be necessary for structures of ‘fringe’ or borderline historical value. The regulated conversion is adaptation that prepares a building for a new use but following certain regulations. The regulation are intended to maintain its architectural value while sustaining its structural integrity.

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