Is it better to transform or demolish and rebuild?
These two approaches hinge on the conditions affecting the site, the existing structures, and even societal issues. In Europe, for example, with its enormous architectural heritage, the tendency is to transform existing buildings respectfully in terms of their history. Restoration, refurbishment, and retrofitting are some of the more or less conservative approaches architects take when dealing with existing structures. Unlike the design of new buildings, these projects require an in-depth knowledge of what has come before, along with sufficient architectural sensitivity to update without canceling the past.
Some examples were provided by the architects invited by THE PLAN to participate in the Perspective Virtual Northern Europe event. Giuseppe Farris, founder of Studio Farris, used the practice’s Stable and Lokal projects to demonstrate how it’s possible to transform historic buildings with simplicity and taste. Philippe Samyn, founder and design partner of Samyn and Partners, looked at some future projects, including the Barilla Cultural Center in Parma and the Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki, to underscore how spatial boundaries can be redefined through modern design strategies. Finally, Anssi Lassila, founder and director of OOPEAA, examined the case history of a completed project to demonstrate how the refurbishment of a derelict building in a historic center created better living standards.
In view of the success of the event in terms of both the topics discussed and participation numbers, we’ll be reexamining this inexhaustible subject at Perspective Virtual UK and North America, to which we’re inviting some well-known international architectural firms, including PBDW Architects and Bucholz McEvoy Architects.
Like many institutions in the United States, the Cooke School & Institute in New York was founded privately by a group of parents to look after the education of children with mobility and other special needs, while also providing them with therapy, support, and special services. The work of PBDW Architects, and featured in issue 128 of THE PLAN, the project involved redesigning a part of the city to create new community spaces, regarded as a necessary transformation for the social wellbeing and education of children. Initially a private initiative, it was backed by New York State and City, which gave permission for teaching to continue in a new facility built specifically for the school in East Harlem. This brought together the school’s three previous makeshift locations, which were poorly suited for teaching and scattered around Manhattan.
Transformation can take place on both the architectural and urban scales. In issue 43 of THE PLAN, we saw how Bucholz McEvoy Architects went about creating a green lung for Dublin on the southern outskirts of the city. The architects designed six eight-story buildings that take full advantage of direct sunlight and natural ventilation. The use of innovative technologies, both active and passive, meant that the complex now uses sixty percent less primary energy than conventional buildings. With this project, Bucholz McEvoy Architects showed how it’s possible to improve and update an established urban site while respecting both the environment and surrounding buildings.
We’ll be talking about this and much more at the panel discussion “The Art of trasformation" to be held as part of the Perspective Virtual UK and North America Forum, scheduled for June 29–30, 2021.
Read more about all the scheduled panel discussions and keep up-to-date by following us on social media. We’ll soon be revealing the names of the speakers and much more.
All credits relating to photos and render refer to individual articles
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