Discussion, discourse, and creative insight through STIRring conversations in 2022
by Jincy IypeDec 27, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Pooja Suresh HollannavarPublished on : Jan 17, 2023
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Three words that have ruled the sustainable movement in all industries across the world. Building for Change: The Architecture of Creative Reuse - put together by Berlin-based Gestalten and contributing writer-editor Ruth Lang, a senior tutor at Royal College of Art London, is actually a display set and tool kit, masquerading as a book. Lang's research explores alternative strategies and positions which can be adopted in pursuit of the practice of architecture. It is an exploration one can see in the book as well as it takes a plethora of exemplary projects across the globe to showcase how and why ‘reuse’ as a key principle, is the way forward in the architecture and building industry. It uses these projects to reveal the accessibility and feasibility of these fundamentals of ‘reuse’.
The book does not spend too much discussing the problem. With the ever-incremental threat of the climate change emergency and the demolition and construction of new buildings being more monetarily profitable, the problem has been clear and well documented for a long time. The book recognises this issue and emphasises the importance of reusing and re-inventing buildings within the first few pages. Framing the negative impact of architecture on the environment, the book claims - “The operation of buildings generates 28 per cent of annual global carbon emissions, with a further 11 per cent generated through building materials.” These are staggering statistics that put the problem in perspective without any fanfare.
“There is an urgent need to ensure that new and existing buildings meet energy-efficiency targets, and to improve access to non-extractive fuel resources. In doing so, architecture must not create an additional burden in terms of the embodied carbon employed as a result, by resorting to new products which drain the planet's resources.”
Divided into sections, or strategies, that deal with the different challenges and aspects of creative reuse, the book uses case studies of exemplary buildings by leading architects across the globe to get its point across. Whether it be the warehouse converted into a hotel in Shanghai, the water tower converted into a residence in Norfolk, UK, or a grain silo converted into an art gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, the chosen projects testify on behalf of the strategies put forth by the book. The achievements of the studios and projects highlighted in the book are by no means easy, and yet there is no pontification of the effort involved. The text by Lang could have easily become preachy and overtly saccharine, but it doesn’t. Instead of using sermons of would, could, should, the book uses ‘is’ in the form of statistics, facts, and examples. This creates a piece of literature that is expertly structured but not overtly linear in its narrative. It allows its readers to pick and prod at sections at their own whim.
Characterising ‘reuse’ as a design methodology, Lang writes, “As always, there is a strong link between the aesthetics of a project and the processes of architectural practice through which it has been developed. Adopting strategies of reuse demands that we reconsider the system of values at the heart of the construction industry, placing those of social and environmental value on at least an equal footing with the aesthetic values we currently take for granted. It calls for greater emphasis on collaboration and the sharing of resources across the design team. It also requires a reshaping of contractual frameworks, the logistics of supply chains, the temporal parameters of a project, and the means of construction employed for delivering our schemes.”
The book’s true genius, however, lies beyond demonstrating the statistics, the obvious merits of ‘reuse’, and the numerous challenges faced by designers in the form of political barriers and local and national building regulations. It shows, through numerous splendid projects, that ‘reuse’ also lends to individual creativity and imaginative designs. It dispels the belief that re-adapted or retrofitted buildings have to conform to the original design and use while demonstrating rather successfully with its generously illustrated layout that creative reuse can more often than not lead to strokes of imaginative genius.
Published by Gestalten in August 2022, the book is a 256-page guide, imploring professionals of the building industry to create more by destroying less.
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In its 22nd commission and under the French-Lebanese architect’s direction, the 2023 Serpentine Pavilion, À table, transpires to be a space for conversations and cultural exchange.
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