REUSE of BUILDINGS

Post 645 –by Gautam Shah

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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.

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Turbine Hall of Bank side Power House Wikipedia image by Cwrcun

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Tate Hall (original turbine machine room)

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.

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Batter sea Power House Station Building being  redeveloped with specific conditions like preservation of four chimney structures > Wikipedia image by > Attribution Nigel Cox

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.

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Arnold Print Works as seen from Marshall street in North Adams, Massachusetts> Wikipedia image by Beyond My Ken

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Main Entrance Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA) Wikipedia image by Beyond My Ken

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’.

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One of the Reuse project by Gasometer City, Vienna, Austria. Four disused gasometers were revamped into residential quarters > Wikipedia image by (Andreas Poeschek by CC-BY-SA-2.0-at)

Gasometer A in Vienna, www.wiener-gasometer.at

Internal Courtyard of Gasometer at Vienna > Wikipedia Image by Andreas.poeschek by CC-BY-SA-2,0-at

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.

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Reused Pillars for Arcade at Adhai Din Ka Zonpada India > Wikipedia image by Billyakhtar

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.

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Asbestos and Lead paints require specific care for removal

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.

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REPLACING BUILDINGS

Post 500  by Gautam Shah

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A building has two components, the land and the structure. The value of land is circumstantial, goes up or down, but does not translate into gain till one sells it or builds upon it. Structures are erected and then maintained till they offer some gain. When a structure does not provide sufficient return, it is altered in many ways, including complete replacement. A structure may have to wait for a very long time till an entrepreneur realizes its potential. The gains after the alteration or replacement must be large enough to pay it off the new investments and return over the value of land. When a piece of Land is highly valued due to circumstantial reasons like location, neighbourhood, connectivity, etc. it also means the potential as a built space is also high.

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Costs of maintenance usually come from the rents or lease charges. Even if the buildings are maintained by the tenants or lessee, they would not be contributing anything extra over the cost of having that built-space. Tenants and leaseholders have an immediacy with the utility of building through expenditure on maintenance. The owners of land-buildings, however, have long-term vision for continued returns.

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Bradbury building Los Angeles 2005 USA

Costs of alterations are outlined by the safety of the structure. An unsafe building cannot be worth any alteration. Cost of alterations, within that limit, is determined by the new function to be accommodated. The new function must be supported primarily by the existing structure, and than by the site (location, neighbourhood, connectivity).

Times of India Building Bombay

Costs of alterations are of many types, some directly related to the basic functionality, or for the image to be endowed to the building. The image could be for a changed look, for corporate branding or for matching with some local or alien image. A process of change could also add more amenities and facilities. Modern technology offers leaner entities there by saving floor space or increased volumes. Typically windows placed on an outer edge, without a sun-shading recess adds to floor space. Cutouts or light-wells make darker areas functional. Open office layouts, without structural partitions gain floor space. Mezzanine floors, reduced floor heights, creating new or using cellar spaces, plumbing-less toilet utilities, wireless communications, all are designed to gain spaces. Management of a retail or selling area spares spaces. Storage spaces are eliminated by continuous supply systems, home deliveries and digital display facilities.

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Replacement of a Building is an extreme step. But it often represents change of ownership with fresh entrepreneurship. Options to demolitions are few. Demolitions have to be carried out in restricted areas where relocations of existing functions, safety, environmental corruption and disposal of debris are prime concerns. Displacements or relocations of the buildings can be done in very select cases, and involve great expense and risk. Relocation of building is carried out in two basic ways. Buildings are dismantled and reassembled, or transported as a whole at another location. The first approach requires building to be consisting of separable and re-unite-able parts, whereas the later one requires a building to be an integrated entity. In reality buildings are exclusively neither of these. It was possible to shift the Egyptian temple from the Aswan dam site as it consisted of units of rock. A modern integrated RCC frame structure cannot be disassembled. A small structure may be shifted as a whole, but a large structure may not have the required street width in an urban location. Displacements are conceived for highly sentimental entities, and only as a last resort.

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TRIVIAL and SUBSTANTIVE CHANGES in BUILDINGS

 

Post 450 -by Gautam Shah

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Trivial or non-substantive changes are caused by the user, without the help of a professional designer. Such changes are mainly limited to the interior domain of the space. These are personal adoptive changes. Highly articulated interior spaces have either a very strict regimen or very neatly defined functionality, and so do not allow major changes. A person acquires such a space at a premium rent or charge, is aware of the restraints, and so may not have the obsession for change. Trivial changes relate more to the sensorial aspects of an interior space, rather then its spatial quality. Such changes are ‘applique’ and do not affect the depth of the structure. The application or removal, both are ‘benign’ or non ‘causative’.

Exterior side Trivial changes for personalization > En Wikipedia image by Wikierpedia

Non-substantive changes on an exterior side of a building are caused for personalization. These changes rarely occur in one comprehensive exercise. Personalization is a social response to the conditions in the neighbourhood. Indians dominated residential areas in UK, USA, and other countries show strong personalization of exteriors, perhaps to imprint their Indian affinity. This is in stark contrast, to an Indian house in a community sparsely populated with Indians. Here the house owner avoids the external personalization.

Raw houses California st NW Washington DC Wikipedia image by AgnosticPreachersKid

Exterior side changes on buildings, trivial or otherwise, are discouraged by the local authorities to sustain the ethnicity of the neighbourhood. Exterior changes of all types, are not allowed on leased-rented properties. Logistically it is difficult to cause any change on the exterior faces of a multi storeyed building. In buildings where galleries or balconies are provisioned, occupants place demountable entities like flower plants, mobiles, hangings, screens, etc.

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Buildings need substantive changes mainly when the user or usage change. Substantive changes are executed by professional designers, in both the domains, unless restrained by extraneous causes such as budget, logistics and local authorities. External changes are difficult in buildings with multiple owners (shared) as there is obligatory discipline. Similarly buildings located in dense localities have severe logistics problems that make it very difficult to cause any changes on the external face. Multistoried buildings with nearly integrated curtain walls as the exterior skin offers no scope for any external modification.

Difficult logistics for substantive exterior change in Multi-ownership apartments Gurgaon Delhi

Substantive changes are caused by brand conscious companies that have very defined para-metrics regarding Graphics, Space and Architecture. To accommodate first two the architecture needs alterations. Substantive changes relate to immediate commercial needs, and also to perception on how long one will stay in the new premises.

Commercial renovation substantive changes on exterior for branding

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VALIDITY of BUILDINGS

Post 399 –  by Gautam Shah

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Frankfurt Skyscraper Old Town Ffm Historic Old Town

Buildings are like the proverbial cat with nine lives. Buildings persist for a very long and indeterminable period. Buildings remain relevant till the structure or parts of it can provide shelter. And, even after loss of its integrity as a shell for shelter, its parts and components are scavenged for reuse. Buildings are precious assets for the society, acquired at a great expense of resources and effort. No society wants them to go waste so buildings get reborn, put to different use, or its parts recycled.

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Life of a building is evaluated on basic two counts: Stability and Relevance.

Stability of a building is checked in terms of Structural Integrity, Physical Condition, and the Stack-Holders’ Perceptions. The structural integrity ensures its capacity to stand-up in equilibrium, by defying or overcoming the gravity, stability and consistency against many forces, and safety and security as a place of habitation. The physical conditions are reflected in weathering processes of nature, and the user-related wear-tear.

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Stake holders’ perceptions reflect the prestige and acceptability of the building in the society for its aesthetic, and functional considerations. It is the cumulative thinking of the society and often alogical.

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Stake-holders’ perceptions: Buildings are perceived to be stable when these are of balanced shapes (regular geometrical shapes), straight (upright and not inclined or crooked) form, broader at base, balanced composition (axially symmetrical), and of lower height. Similarly buildings made of materials that are opaque, high density, non deformable, stiff, good in compression, rough or robust finish, are considered longer lasting or reliable. Buildings composed of elements, fewer in numbers, larger in scale, and simpler in details also denote reliable performance.

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Relevance of a Building is considered on many counts. At macro level, a neighbourhood may not effectively support a building’s existence or use. It may turn embarrassing, in the context of its changed surroundings. At contextual level, the building may be considered irrelevant, when the purpose for which it was conceived is no longer valid. It may become nonessential, when other exotic or superior forms are available. At micro level, a building may become ineffective, if it cannot accept new technologies for service systems, parts or components. It may be considered to have ended, when its important constituents disintegrate or get separated.

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A building is neglected when it affects our sensuality, pride, prestige, values, etc. A building may be judged redundant, when in spite of all remedial actions it cannot fulfill its functions. It is abandoned when it cannot stay in equilibrium or in a state that is right for a normal human occupation.

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RESTORING BUILDINGS

Post 179 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 

Buildings are invested with many different values. The values are, utilitarian aspects, sensuality, materials, technology, architectural character, spatial qualities, style, patterns, scale or proportions and antiquity. These values arise over a period of time, and what we perceive is a cumulative imprint of it. The values are subjective and circumstantial judgements and so are considered partial considerations. It is never possible to know how, why, and when the values were endowed.

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Restored building Yatkha Bahal Nepal

It is not possible to restore a building to an ‘original condition, as none exists in a single time and space profile. It is also accepted that, a comprehensive restoration is never possible, because then one needs to consider all these values concurrently. Restoration, at best is a subjective approximation. Restoration inherently involves generalization, ignorance, insincerity, wrong decisions, lack of resources, and time constraints.

Restoration, is however, often considered easy, as the retained or restored identities provide a link to a perceived image of the past. Restoration is substantially an alteration, where nonconformist elements are changed. As a result in every restoration, something of the original character is irretrievably lost. ‘Too many restorations ultimately take away the original character of the building.’

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Restored dockyard buildings to a different use at Alfred Road

Restoration to be purposeful must remain superfluous. Restorations at all times must remain irretrievable that is fully removable or demountable. Restorations without harming the substrate or basic fabric, preserves the essence of the building. It is ‘prudent to restore with a superfluous but traditional material, than employ an innovative but integrating material’. Integrated restorations affect the basic fabric or structure of the building.

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