Post 401 – by Gautam Shah


Carson Pirie Scott Building S street entrance

Buildings are continued primarily by changing the functions they serve, secondly by redefining the form, and in rare cases, if possible, by altering the surroundings. Many corrective actions are necessary to use the building for a different purpose. Redefining the form of a building is even more difficult as it 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’. The alteration of form may turn out to be costlier than a comparative new entity. The preservation of surroundings of buildings requires social, political and financial involvement, beyond the reach of an owner or user. It is only for buildings intensively serving social functions or buildings with historical connections that surroundings will be conserved or even rejuvenated.

Restoration of Qilou buildings in Bo’ai Road area, Haikou, Hainan, China

Buildings are continued by Restorative as well as Enabling interventions. 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. Enabling interventions add local capacities, or mediate by adjusting the existing capacities. 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.

Carson Pirie Scott and Company Building

Carson Pirie Scott and Company Building


Carson Pirie Scott and Company Building

Young buildings seem invincible. Original intentions are still valid and surroundings relevant, and so continuance of the building is an irrelevant thought. No changes, of the function or form, are required. Enabling interventions such as maintenance helps a building continue with a predictable and consistent pace. Such restorative efforts sustain the form and nurture the functions. New buildings have overcapacity risk margins. The parts and components are able to share the additional loads or risks posed by neighbouring constituents. So in early stages of buildings’ life no major replacements are required. New buildings do not need immediate changes unless the programme for it has been faulty, or it coincides with major changes in the political, social or economics fields. Changes in the early phase can be easily made, because original designer, documents, components and systems, all are available. At this point the building is structurally fit for habitation.

Older buildings need substantial retrospection 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.

Humayun’s Tomb Delhi 1858

Humayun’s Tomb Delhi Now

All changes, whether these are improvisations, preventive corrections, sufficiency provisions, or resurrectional actions; of minor, imperceptible, innocent, non-invasive or just touching nature, ultimately add up to completely reformat the original form. These reformations are in addition to the parallel altering process of nature.



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.


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.’

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.



 Post -by Gautam Shah




Old buildings often have so well preserved structures, that the shell continues to be valuable as a place of inhabitation or occupation. With some changes such buildings can be made suitable for new uses. Conversion of buildings for new functions becomes easier when such buildings do not carry emotional or other symbolic values. There is no obsession to trace the antiquity and restore the past image of such buildings. As a result, owners, designers and builders, have unbounded scope, for affecting changes in such buildings.

Repurposed space Annes Theatre Under Brooklyn Bridge NYC

Reformations and Conversions exploit the current assets of the building. Reformation of a building can happen, if only the surroundings can support the new occupation. A building is considered fit for reformation, when it represents a saving of physical resources and time, compared to the cost and time required in putting up a fresh building of equivalent size.




Selection of functions or activities, to be established is primarily determined by the

1 – Location advantage the building offers,

2 – Spatial characteristics of the structure,

3 – Empathy its external form now presents or will create after the processes of reformation,

4 – Structural qualities such as equilibrium – stability and longevity of the building.


Commercial activities that exclusively offer economic viability due to the technical functioning of the building, such as the departmental stores, multi storey parks, industrial plants, etc. generally require modern structures. Whereas other occupational activities that provide economic or other levels of validity, from the nature of allowable activities (happenings) rather than the core or programmed functions can be accommodated in reformed or converted building.



Reformations are achieved through processes like Alterations, Extension, Renovation etc. of the building. Expectations for the ‘post reformation’ results are often very basic and without any preconceptions yet of of unprecedented nature. Success of reformation is measured in either the immediate economic gain like rent, or appreciation in the value of the building.


Notions of conversion as opposed to new construction, depends on the scale at which it is viewed. To the city planner the pulling down of a block and the construction of a new one to replace it is a conversion of the city locality, but for the architect it is just a project. For the interior designer furnishing a space in an old building is a new job. Conversion designers operate between two extremes, one within the realm of social relevance and acceptability, and other of utter professionalism to create an entity. Reformations or Conversions rehabilitate buildings. The rehabilitation of a building is very perplexing, Is one trying to re-establish the original functions into a structure that has become dysfunctional, due to structural reasons, malfunctioning of important utilities, or been abused by the social or political upheaval, Or, Is one trying to achieve the functional modifications to sustain viability, acceptability in the changed circumstances?


In Europe many old factories and shore front buildings like warehouses have been reformed. Old palaces have been rehabilitated into resorts. Churches converted into temples of other faith.