Post 645 –by Gautam Shah
Buildings continue to be relevant for many different reasons. Buildings persist, primarily by changing the functions they serve, secondly by redefining the form, and in rare cases, by altering the surroundings. Buildings are continued by Enabling interventions and Restorative actions. Re-use is a process of re-endowing value to neglected built-forms, which otherwise could see demotion.
A building and its lands, both are precious assets. Buildings are acquired at a great expense of resources, effort and time whereas the lands, now have new relevance being in central location and good connections. No one wants, either to go wastes. Buildings and the lands must be put to different use. Reuse strategies relate to establishing the lands and building for a ‘purpose other than the original one.
Location is the external realm of the building. It has two facets: the distance or the extent and the stack holders of the building. A building serves certain terrain or physical distance. When these get enlarged due to efficient transport services the usage is increased, but conversely barriers like railway tracks, canals, closure of roads, or loss of visual identity affects the raison d’ etre (reason for existence) of the building. Stack holders become insincere for maintenance when the location begins to deteriorate due to economic, social or political problems, and affects the pride or faith in the building.
Lands become available for reuse, due to the changes in land zone and occupation patterns, such as residential to commercial or industrial to residential. Lands need re-validation of purpose when new developments like location of an airport, highways, railway tracks, etc. take place in neighbourhoods. Existing lands have an advantage of location and connections.
Reuse of lands and built spaces is a form of urban rejuvenation, rationalization of urban density and strategy for sustainable use of resources. Reuse, sometimes deals with issues of conservation and so considered by some, as ‘compromise between historic preservation and demolition’.
To use a building for a different purpose, many corrective actions are required. Redefining the form of a building is difficult as it is expected to satisfy, simultaneously, the functional needs and the value system in the society. In the first instance if the owner finds the corrective actions uneconomic, would rather opt for a new entity. In the later case, the changes in the form may make the society apathetic to the building’s revised ‘look’. Often, the cost of renovation, rehabilitation or restorations, are more costly than demolition or building newly.
The preservation of surroundings of buildings requires social, political and financial involvement, which are beyond the reach of the owner or user. It is only for buildings intensively serving social functions or buildings with historical connections that surroundings will be conserved or even redefined. A building, if is a public utility or society’s pride and prestige, its surroundings will be maintained or even resurrected. Changes in the surroundings force functional changes in the building, however, whether one makes the changes to be with surroundings or resists, both ways the building gets altered.
Old buildings become unsuitable for their conceived requirements with passage of time. The building’s own technological validity (of service systems’ and components’), and the circumstantial relevance of the planned usage, both, change, and independently. To these, political conditions and financial consideration (benefit accruing out of it) complicate the assessment.
A building, if it has a form of architectural styling then it is continued as a relic. When it has commemorative connections, in appreciation of its past, the building becomes a monument. Buildings that need to be remembered are restored or preserved to retain their form, but often in complete absence of the original setting. A building that has substantially lost the form and has indistinct connections can be enacted through re-imaging of its setting, like through Sound & light (son et Lumiere) shows on historical sites.
A building as a built-form stays till the structure or parts of it can provide shelter. And even after the loss of its integrity as a shell for shelter, its parts and components are scavenged for reuse. Romans and many others have used refuse in their new constructions. There are unknown costs in managing debris of old buildings, related to handling materials like glass wool, asbestos, and radio active contaminants, and demolition and removal of materials from dense localities.
Older buildings need substantial review of their functions, due to changes in ownership, reassessment of efficiency, styling and context. As the buildings age, the nominal surface related changes go deeper into the body of structure. Such changes are not easily perceptible, and can grow to very dangerous level. This is a stage when original design documents are not available. The new technology components and systems may not match the existing provisions. Repairs and maintenance schedules can restore parts, components and systems, provided the design is ‘open-ended’. However, holistic creations or ‘close-ended’ entities deteriorate completely without any scope for corrective measures.