I passionately believe in the need for a theory and approach for a building to "grow", adapt and develop in time and space as fast as society and technology does. I am continuously investigating the extent of oblivion and remembrance needed to foster sustainable urban, architectural and cultural progress.
In the following I trace a first train of thought - one of time and space, building and rebuilding and the meaning of doing so. It is a poetic study of architecture and building in time. Thereby I seek to learn the extend of the problematic and to express it with words and examples.
"The word 'building' contains the double reality - both the verb and the noun. And where architecture strives to be permanent, a building is always building and rebuilding"
- excerpt from "How buildings learn" by Steward Brand
The value of a visible trace of history in a building is the living proof and example that architecture is an art of storytelling and as such, one of its most important features is a timeline and a qualitative change of state trough time.
Historical buildings in a city help establish a local cultural identity and set a starting point and a direction for further growth and development. When after World War II in bigger parts of Europe the new laws for protection and preservation of architectural monuments kicked in, it resulted into much needed care and restoration of many historical buildings and neighborhoods. Almost 80 years later we are happy to have such places as the Jordaan district in Amsterdam, the Belgian town of Brygge or central Vienna and connect to the past. But as beautiful and nostalgic as these places are, despite the efforts of town legislation and administration, these places are changing. Once vibrant centers of exchange and hustle of everyday life, many European cities are turning into giant museums of themselves, serving not the residents of their own town, but profitable causes such as tourism and merchandise. Residential function slowly but definitely moves out of the historic neighbourhoods to give place to the most temporary function of all - retail.
The Death of an almost eternal city comes with its recognition for UNESCO - or so say its inhabitants. The city of Split was founded in 305 AD when Roman emperor Diocletian built there a fortress for his retirement years. Ever since the inhabitants of the area have found shelter within the walls of the fortification and continuously changed it. Walking around the town today, visible scars of every generation are carved in the white stones of the building, and there is something poetic and beautiful about it. But all poetry ends in recent years when the city is discovered by mass tourism as a trip highlight. Since then the city is flooded with exterior air conditioners hanging from the walls, plastic chairs on every free spot and huge and shiny shopping windows. Residents have since all moved to a different part of town, often with regret and despair.
The director of Venice Biennale Paolo Baratta once said "We live with our memories, but survive thanks to oblivion".
A historical city is not a mere wondrous backdrop for life in any century to happen. The place defines the people and the people define the place. Architecture needs to be lived, needs interaction, change and care to exist. We don't need more static monuments of the past, we need to actively learn and improve our surroundings.
This present second part discusses a theory of a systematic growth in time of a building, based on extensive precedent research and drawn conclusions. In this part I am seeking a theoretical and design approach to allow for a building to develop in time and space, but still preserve its identity.
"A building is defined by its elements, but beyond that, a building is also defined by certain patterns of relationships between the elements. [...] Each building gets its character from just the patterns, which keep on repeating there."
- excerpt from "The Timeless Way of Building" by Christopher Alexander
Whenever a new building is conceived, its site is crucial. Whether an architect would decide to incorporate the environment in their design or to ignore it - it is a key feature of a design proposal. However, when the building ground for a new building is another building in itself, a question arises as to how architecture can respond to a surrounding that is so immediate and dominant. After conducting a study on buildings, which have expanded over time, 3 main principles for a continuous workflow arose. Hereafter, three examples are presented, which best explain the principles.
1/ St.Ludwig kirche, Saarelouis, Germany
This building is characterized by three different times, each with different materiality and different structure type. When the neo gothic abside collapses due to underground water destroying the foundations, new abside needs to be built and it should be with a structure and material that can handle the troublesome ground. The solution of reinforced concrete comes and so the design of Gottfried Boehm.
This inheritance of proportions and morphological units is further on referred to as the method of Morphological inheritance. It is signified by preserved proportions and formal language, keeping the building as a whole, however different materiality, structural system and aesthetic may be.
2/ Festung Hohensalzburg, Salzburg, Austria
Due to need for protection from foreign attack in the middle ages, the circulation mode takes a visitor on the longest path possible, giving many possibilities for the residents to attack their invading enemies. Because of this necessity circulation dictates the layout and planning of the fortress in all of its expansion phases and turns to a main driving design principle. Despite being progressively built in different ages with different techniques, it retained its function and its contextuality. Therefore materials keep inheriting properties from each other, while only the building technique develops, thus preserving the buildings unity. These features of the example illustrate the Design narrative adaptance method. It follows the way the objectives for a certain strategy change with time, including the political, sociological and cultural aspect.
3/ Tate modern, Herzog and de Meuron, London, UK
The new design proposes a distinguished shape, not interfering with the appearance of the old existing building, which is a landmark of is own. However, cladding it with the same brick topology and the same order, a dialogue between the new and the old is established. The observed material inheritance similarity in the smallest building unit wrapping up the big picture constitutes the third method, called Continuation and evolution of detailing pattern. Here features as decoration and its function as tool for articulation and materiality as a forgotten property of form take central place.
According to Steve Semes there are three main motives for preservation : 1/ historians motive of buildings and places as "documents of their time"; 2/ populist motive of "places we love and want to keep"; and probably the most neglected and often forgotten one - 3/ to learn/remember how to build1.Let's learn how to learn, remember and honour our favourite places.
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