Adaptive reuse is born out of the modern architect’s guilt of destroying the DNA of building making. The craft of building, where the architect was the master craftsman, needed him to plan every part and sub part before it reached the site. - Manish Gulati on adapative reuse of old buildings.
Notre dame, a dark Gothic interior lit with thousand candles and the stained glass windows, cannot feel the same by replacing the old roof with clear glass conservatory that the modern architects are proposing today. The paintings in the Gond houses of Bastar were done in dark corners, lit dimly, to ward off evil spirits. Taking that same artwork on a canvas and hanging it in a modern museum flooded with light surely makes the mockery of that art and turns it into a pop graphic than the magical spirit that it originally imbibed.
I was in a discussion last evening about the importance and relevance of Adaptive Reuse for the old buildings. While someone debated at length how important it is, to convert old palaces into modern air conditioned hotels in India; it reinforced my belief that the modern architect, a creature with its head full of ego, is almost waiting for an old building to burn or fall down, to seize that opportunity for wrapping it up, in the limited modern materials that this creature is comfortable with. It took less than a week, to put a glass roof over Notre Dame, while the stone at its summit, must still be warm from the fire that burnt down its precious 12th century wooden Gothic roof.
I am not against the idea of redefining the function of an old dilapidated building, but I am against the idea of turning it into an exhibit, uprooted from its context and socio-cultural fabric. Adaptive reuse in most cases, is a patch-up of a historical evidence by the modern architect with its ignorance of the past, of the crafts, of the context in which it was built and existed, to immortalize its own egoistic stamp over the history.
Surely one can talk of aesthetics, but in today’s 5 second retention span in the instagram generation, only aesthetics are not enough. An architect has a much bigger responsibility than just the visual appeal. 100 years ago architect was the craftsman, in last 100 years, the modern architect killed the craftsman.
Adaptive reuse is born out of the modern architect’s guilt of destroying the DNA of building making. The craft of building, where the architect was the master craftsman, needed him to plan every part and sub part before it reached the site. Take the case of India, Stone architecture of Rajasthan, wooden architecture of Kerala, Terracotta temples of Bengal or the precast brick architecture of Punjab, every smallest part needed tremendous and meticulous planning by the architect as every piece needed to fit perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle.
Then we invented RCC and built the first building in the mid 19th Century. The practice of in situ building, not only made the architect complacent, but slowly eliminated the multiple craftsmen as anything could be molded or remolded on site. Hence, we produced more and more waste. The jigsaw puzzle building process produced the exact pieces that were needed for a building whereas the in situ, there was no beginning or an end to this loop. The act of in situ construction made the building look homogeneous across the world, the same manual of construction was applicable, irrespective of the context; just like a 50 rupee Big Mac, it looks and tastes the same, anywhere in the world.
In most cases of the adaptive reuse of an old building, the old becomes an exhibit viewed through a clear glass, bathed in excessive homogeneous light whereas, it was the darkness that gave its true character. Notre dame, a dark Gothic interior lit with thousand candles and the stained glass windows, cannot feel the same by replacing the old roof with clear glass conservatory that the modern architects are proposing today. The paintings in the Gond houses of Bastar were done in dark corners, lit dimly, to ward off evil spirits. Taking that same artwork on a canvas and hanging it in a modern museum flooded with light surely makes the mockery of that art and turns it into a pop graphic than the magical spirit that it originally imbibed.
Adaptive reuse to me is not limited to the physical space occupied by a building in a given point in time. Reusing a few old buildings for a modern usage is important but, it does not make significant numbers. To me, it lies in altering its DNA, to lead to a mass phenomenon and its DNA lies, in the way it’s been built. With the introduction of in situ concrete, this building practice underwent a certain mutation, that undoubtedly gave a free hand to the architect, but it killed the craft and the traditional building industry. With the freedom to choose any form that could be poured on site, it created a singularity, suppressing and superseding all the other existing building practices.
The adaptive reuse of a few old buildings across the world by the modern architect, is as similar an act as the patronizing attitude of the first world towards its colonies in order get rid of their collective guilt.
Vinod Gupta, of Opus Indigo Studio reflects on the evolution and challenges of the Indian architectural profession, emphasizing the need for architects to reclaim responsibilities beyond design to revitalize the industry’s trajectory.
In this rural escape, The 100, Calicut, by Nestccraft Architecture, ensures a firm marriage between functionality and aesthetics and the planning suggests four bedrooms with attached toilets in a plinth area of 21OO square feet. The home and wabi-sabi landscape within this boundary facilitate meaningful life to 1OO souls.
The essay traces the transformation of Pune from a quaint town to the vibrant city it is today. Mostly it is about the city’s aspects, which make it different and unique. The narrative reminisces about the city’s cultural richness and festive glory. It also points out a bit about the challenges posed by urbanization. But despite everything, Pune successfully retains its cultural essence, making it a city that preserves its glorious heritage while transforming.
This essay by Arpita Khamitkar is amongst the shortlisted essays.
The essay reflects on the author’s childhood memories centred around the Kohinoor Textile Mill. The mill, part of Mumbai’s Girangaon, played a significant role in the city’s industrial growth until the early 1980s. The essay fondly recalls the mill’s impact on the community, its cultural richness, and personal experiences. The author expresses concern about the loss of community identity and the impact of privatization, highlighting the need for sustainable urban development that preserves the city’s history. This essay by Pornima Buddhivant is amongst the shortlisted essays.
The essay titled, ‘The case of Phalke Smarak : Nashik’s untapped potential with existing urban public space’ – discusses how a promising urban scale public space project for Nashik city in the late 90s has slowly turned desolate, despite all the possibilities and potential the architectural design, site and overall context offers. It further tries to highlight the gap between the public and failed public spaces based on this case, and points towards public engagement for successful urban design, renewal and development. This essay by Asmita Raghuvanshy is amongst the shortlisted essays.
This essay delves into how municipal corporations envision creating Western cities (instead of responding to the Indian context) and end up creating cities that only appear to work, instead of actually being more socially inclusive, dynamic and publicly active. The Smart Cities Mission then caters only to the rich and this becomes evident in not just the visuals they use, but also the manner in which they describe their vision of a World Class Infrastructure. This essay by Avani Mittal is amongst the shortlisted essays.