While I am not sure who said it (so please email me if you are), there is one quote from a university history reading that has always stuck with me. It read something along the lines of: “old buildings aren’t good because they’re old, they’re old because they’re good” and the message was that if a building has managed to survive the test of time then it has proven both its structural and cultural worth and therefore worthy of protection.
But for David Gallop, architect, heritage expert and principal of Conrad Gargett, it isn’t quite so simple. He’d prefer to see buildings reinvented to suit contemporary uses and new cultural environments, rather than simply left as is, or “mothballed” as he puts it. Of course, being a devoted heritage practitioner means Gallop will always follow a rigorous design process to ensure his upgrades retain the significant heritage aspects of the building and remain as anchors to place and memory. But that doesn’t mean he’s entirely anchored in the past.
For heritage buildings to remain relevant they must be reinvented to suit contemporary needs. The same could be said about other forms of architecture such as aged care and retirement buildings. A project in Victoria by Six Degrees Architects (page 12) shows how architects are beginning to borrow research, data and design methodologies from other architecture disciplines to design according to the desires of their new clients.
That said, and as Gallop emphasises in his feature (page 24), designing new shouldn’t mean overlooking the old, and this is also applicable across the breadth of building disciplines. While new aged care facilities and heritage buildings are beginning to look more like cafes, universities and hotels, they are different and do require special considerations. For heritage buildings this involves adhering to conservation plans and protocols, while for aged care it’s mostly about safety and access concerns and things such as slip-resistant flooring (page 40) will always remain an integral part of the industry.
Reinventing buildings usually coincides with technology improvements that dramatically alter a way we can design them. The key challenge is adding new services and technologies in a way that is sensitive to place, briefs and building codes. Our features in this issue, including a great green roofs guide (page 6), all demonstrate how building designers are embracing new building materials and technologies to create buildings of cultural and architectural significance.
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