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.


Turbine Hall of Bank side Power House Wikipedia image by Cwrcun

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.

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.


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


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’.

Old gasometer in Ringsend, Dublin


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,

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.


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.


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.



Post 399 –  by Gautam Shah


Frankfurt Skyscraper Old Town Ffm Historic Old Town

Validation is adaptive reuse that actually changes the purpose of a built-form to meet the community’s needs. The building gets transformed in terms of the function it serves but changes the neighbourhood of its location. Adaptive reuse can mean many different things, reinventing or repurposing the building where the new life is drastically different in purpose from the previous one. It is also done through conservation, restoration, renovation or reformation.  A secondary purpose could be to preserve and revitalise the historic spaces, and if the size, scale and purpose are large enough than even reduce the urban chaos.

geograph-4298939-by-David-Dixon 1


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 non-essential, 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.



Many structures are revalidated because their locations are fairly centric and offer several cost advantages, such as, small proportion of cost demolitions, debris removal-disposal issues in a dense localities, and lower establishment costs of sourcing the services. The issues of ownership titles or cost of land acquisition are not up-front involvements. Validation of old building begins with its adaption for its reuse. These include concerns for structural integrity, retrofitting or reinforcing for new patterns of loading.


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 fulfil its functions. It is abandoned when it cannot stay in equilibrium or in a state that is right for a normal human occupation.


Older structures not only age in uncertain manner and have passed through usage that were often unintended. Older components are not only substantive in size, load and energy usage but their technological reinstatement or equivalent replacement is not feasible. For a variety of reason it is not possible to restore all older structures. So an option valid on many counts is the adaptive use, as it allows built asset and related prestige or emotions to be transformed through a creative pursuit.

Wonder Bread Factory




Post 302⇒   by Gautam Shah  →


Renovation is an action to renew or re-establish the original character of a building. The renewal could be to update the functional efficiency, or reinstate the sensorial aspects or a historical image.

Renovation is seen in a wider perspective. It can include all attempts to furnish a building with a new image or meaning. In the first instance the budget is predictable and results are assured, but in the second case it is difficult to equate the expense with the gains.

Renovated San Francisco Ferry Building

At commercial level, a building is considered to have had a Renovation, when its functional and sensorial values are substantially modified (generally upgraded). To do so, some intentionally replace, displace or install elements that are very different from the original. Buildings are often ‘redecorated’ by placing stylized historical elements like columns, cornices, etc. A substantially renovated building creates a new aura in the society. In this sense a renovation, not only rejuvenates, an old building but upgrades its esteem in the neighbourhood.

Golden Temple Amritsar India -Old Image

Renovations occur due to internal and external compulsions. The internal compulsions occur due to new occupants or aspirations for new style of living. Renovations also occur there is acute need to improve the working of a building. External pressures arise when the buildings of the neighbourhood are renovated, creating problems of visual, social and political equalization. Buildings get renovated when their relevance needs re-validation. This happens when the history is seen in a new perspective, there is greater awareness, or have financial resources. Concepts or things, which, were once considered to be inviolable, are re-evaluated during renovations. As a result renovation invariably includes some re-adjustive processes, like alterations, reformations, etc., however, it does not cover conservation or preservation processes.

China Tienanmen

Corporate buildings are often renovated for no other reason but to reflect the shift in goals or change in company’s structure. Shops are renovated to reflect new product lines, business styles. Restaurants, night clubs, landscapes and gardens are renovated to provide a variety. Landmarks in urban areas are renovated to provide impetus to new developments.

Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Temple Finchley Road London -Internal Renovation -external Conservation

Renovations are made not only to revitalize, but to impose new values to used or old buildings. City councils, however, too conscious of continuing the set image of the neighbourhood, do not allow renovations on external face. Many unused church buildings are being renovated as Hindu temples in UK, but only in terms of interiors. Internal changes in such buildings are more of the alterations then renovations. The internal changes are carried out with twofold purposes, to remove or dilute the Christian or alien religious values, and to create a Hindu temple like environment. Royal palaces in India are renovated as heritage hotels with modern services but, keeping intact, the spatial character of the palace. Hyderabad-house, New Delhi, has been renovated to function as a State house for a variety of official functions. White-house of US and Kremlin in Russia, have seen several extensive renovations.

Buildings capable of fulfilling the utilitarian and sensual requirements, are allowed to continue with due repairs and maintenance. Buildings that are regularly repaired and properly maintained do not seem to need renovation. Continuing repairs and maintenance processes renovate a building in such small measures that there is no perceptible change.

To renovate a building one needs to have an image to match. Old buildings lack such documents. So renovations are presumptive exercise with prudence.