The Kiss of life:
Buildings do not usually change their own physical location but the cultural as well as physical context within which they exist can radically alter throughout their existence. Likewise with the activities, which took place within. The building may have outlived its original purpose for a number of reasons, but may be still in ‘decent’ physical shape. Its meaning, however has changed. Is it still a building if it is unoccupied? Is it a fragment or a ruin; even if it is only decades old? And if so, how does that influence the approach to working with it? Carlo Scarpa is probably the most significant reference point in the 20th century when it comes to addressing the issues associated with existing structures. Scarpa was not so much interested in the idea of restoration as such, but in the idea of historical clarity, making the various layers of history visible at the same time. He was interested in making a building legible by successive acts of excavation, demolition and adaptation. 1
‘The religion today is a denial of death. So objects are not allowed to die either, but are preserved. Ruins should not be ruined further, but should keep their present condition until the end of the world. ’1
Some of the most exciting and provocative architectural projects have involved the creative use of a building built for one purpose, being brought to life by an adaptation for a completely different purpose and where a sense of each phase of the building’s life is palpable.
The architect need not face the anxiety of drawing that first mark. Rather than initiating a new vision from scratch, the architect’s role with an existing building involves giving that existing structure the kiss of life through its new use.
posted by Alan Pert, IC team and NORD