From the shelf

Architecture Reborn

Apr 23, 2017 |

THE CONVERSION AND RECONSTRUCTION OF OLD BUILDINGS: KENNETH POWELL

The history of the buildings that the human race has created over thousands of years is one of constant change. Political, religious and economic regimes rise and fall; buildings, more often than not, outlast civilizations. Greek and Roman temples became Christian churches, English monasteries were recycled as country houses and Russian palaces became post-Revolution museums of the people. More recently, nineteenth-century American mills and railway stations
have been turned into shopping malls and hotels. The transformation of buildings now constitutes a major element in the workload of architects worldwide: as well as making environmental sense, a conversion is often a simpler and more economic process than a new-build project. Rehabilitation schemes have generated some of the most intelligent and innovative architecture to come out of contemporary practice.

Today, office and industrial buildings of the 1950s and 1960s are being recast for domestic and leisure use - for the simple reason that conversion is a cheaper and less complicated process than new-build. The Georgian-built West End of London is no longer a residential enclave, but many of its streets and squares survive as locations for prestige offices and medical consulting rooms. Old buildings are remarkably resilient. The Marais district of Paris was a fashionable quartier of private palaces in the eighteenth century. By the early years of the twentieth century, it was a rundown slum, on the road to clearance. Now it is fashionable once more, a modish place to live and a cultural quarter which is a favourite destination for tourists.

 

 



Architecture Reborn presents a detailed investigation into the adaptation and conversion of existing buildings as a distinctive area of design.Forty-four international schemes have been chosen to demonstrate that reuse is a positive - even essential - way to achieve a forward-looking architecture. Rather than preservation, or deference to old buildings, the message here is transformation; a physical rather than historicist approach to constructing new form from old fabric.

 

The book shows how today's architects have called on historical structures and brought them back into everyday life: the legendary Fiat factory is transformed into a cultural and commercial complex; a Spanish palace becomes a public library; and an armaments factory is reused as an art and media centre. Whilst the original structures are often not historically or architecturally outstanding, many - including a sixteenth-century cathedral, a nineteenthcentury propeller factory and the former headquarters of the Nazi youth movement - make intriguing stories in themselves.

Kenneth Powell's strongly argued commentary, supported by carefully researched illustrations, contains imperative information for anyone involved in architecture, planning and regeneration, as well as the layperson interested in keeping up to date with this fast-moving and often controversial area of design.

This is not a Book Review; this is just an effort to conveying information to the readers on rare and valuable books on art and architecture. This column aims to give a helicopter view on such books and thus presents the excerpts and illustrations either from the preface, introduction, jacket or main contents of the book from the shelf. This book was kindly provided by Mandala Book Point, Kantipath, Kathmandu (Tel. 4227711).

 


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