Post 400 – by Gautam Shah
A building is a major asset. A dwelling owner wants it to last for own life and perhaps for the next generation. A ruler wants the building to be entity perpetuating the dynasty. Public buildings are deified as ever lasting monuments. Permanence of buildings is both physical and metaphoric. At physical level, the reality impinges in terms of the building’s form, stability sustainability, functionality, etc. At metaphoric level the building has an image formed of social relevance, architectural character, and novelty. The image of a building has different associations to various sections of the society.
A building that has an architectural style is continued as a relic. When it has commemorative connections, as mark of an era, achievement or an event it becomes a memorial. Few structures are created for non-utilitarian purposes as monuments. Buildings that valued and need to be remembered, are restored or conserved to retain their form, but often in complete absence of the original setting. A building that has substantially lost the form and has indistinct circumstantial connections are re-enacted through re-imaging of its setting, like through Sound & light (son et Lumière) shows on historical sites.
A Builder recognizes the building for its stability or equilibrium. In this pursuit the builder unless restrained by the economics will overdo the job by making the building extra strong (safe). In rural areas where the user is the designer and the builder, permanence resides in the personal ability to maintain and upgrade the building. For such self-builders structure is permanent so long it can be reconditioned from personal or local resources. In nomadic or intensively migrant societies, the dwellings are light and transportable, yet the selection of form and the materials, reflect their quest for permanence.
A User perceives permanence in terms of buildings’ capacity to accommodate the changes effortlessly through the passage of time.
A Designer distinguishes a new building for specific set of functions only. Architects very rarely design buildings for reuse or adoptive functions.
A lay-person perceives ‘monumental buildings’ to be of time-tested or mature technology and durable, whereas, fragile buildings (though fairly stable and functionally adequate) are of a newer or untested technology and so temporary.
Substantial judgements on permanence of a building rest on its capacity to serve the functions and also to adopt new functions. Companies maintain the firm’s headquarters in the original building, by substantially altering the interiors, and by conserving the exterior. Where in spite of exercises of continuity, the building often remains a symbolic entity.
Older buildings in good localities with high social, political and an economics profile, with strong architectural character or ‘branded form’ are reinforced with retro fitting technologies. Often the compulsion derives from local authority’s conditions of development.
It is nearly impossible for an individual owner to enforce conservation of the surroundings. The social, political and financial involvement, is beyond the reach of an owner or user. However, public buildings such as of public utility, serving social functions, or of society’s pride and prestige may have its surroundings well maintained or even resurrected.