Age, quod agis!
-Do well whatever you do!-
Every structure needs to be renewed over time to meet the requirements of the day. Although it is possible to renew the buildings that retain their original function without making significant changes, radical interventions are needed for the re-functioned structures. The most important problem is the renewal of the load-bearing systems of the structures according to today’s assumptions.
It is very difficult for old buildings to pursue their functionality if they aren’t renovated in line with contemporary needs. Buildings that are out of use in terms of profitability are eventually demolished. Although it is possible to evaluate some of the buildings economically, this is not possible for most buildings and therefore they are demolished.
key ingredients and principles of a successful project
There is a wide range of problems in the renovation of an old building, especially the one which has been a cultural property in need of protection. The primary problem is that the architect who will undertake this work must have absorbed the contemporary architecture and must be competent in the use of contemporary materials. It is not possible for a person who is inadequate to construct a contemporary structure to realize a real renovation project. The fact that every architecture graduate who tries to realize this type of project causes the results that we all complain about. First of all, we need to understand that not everyone who has an architectural diploma is an architect, and the profession of architecture means to build.
We see that some buildings which have become cultural assets over the years are renovated with some radical arrangements that can be easily understood by the people who are out of the picture – instead of using additions and attachments with a different architectural approach that would cherish the past. However, the decision-makers of our country are far from this understanding and demand that the additions and attachments to be added to the renewed structures should be made with the material and understanding of the period in which those were made. Although much debated, Article 12 of the Venice Regulation says, “… at the same time, must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence.” I think in that sense, there is a long way to go in our country, which has many cultural properties in need of protection.
challenges and design approach
The biggest challenge in designing a reuse project is the bureaucracy. The general understanding of the protection bureaucracy in our country in the renovation projects is the use of the materials and techniques of the period when the building was built. Today, there isn’t any staff specialized to build with traditional methods almost in any city. Craftsmen who form the framework of a wooden structure have become history instead, the wooden bearing elements are made by the craftsmen known as “carpenter”. Instead of conventional bonding techniques, readily available metal binders are often used. Although the load-bearing systems used in the majority of renovated buildings were made from hard wood such as oak, hornbeam, chestnut, etc., today, soft wood materials such as various pine species and even poplar trees are used to form the load-bearing system. In the wooden structures, the partition walls are insistently made by a method which is the plastering of small wooden slats with lime mortar plaster – what Vitruvius said two thousand years ago was to avoid using this method. This request is misdirecting by people and has not been found a solution for a long time. The negative results of buildings built with these methods which become worn out in a short period of time and constructed with materials that have a short life span as well as being costly cause many people to stay away from renovation projects.
Another important point is that most of today’s architects see the architectural profession as simply organizing and approving projects. The person called “the architect” is not only a project organizer, the project is only a statement of what he could do. What is essential is the resulting structure. Theoretically educated people should learn the profession of architecture with a long period of practice, but today, I see that almost every newly graduated architect has attempted to organize projects, but when it comes to the construction of the building, the masters and workers are building according to their own knowledge. I believe that this kind of practice is a betrayal of the architectural profession.
The design process for the construction of a new building depends on the type of building. Specializing in factory, hospital, school, museum and so on. For the construction of such structures, it is necessary to study, work on, and, where possible, examine similar structures around the world. For simpler structures, our training and experience in the practice of the profession may be sufficient. However, the architect should have a wide range of knowledge even if it is not taken into consideration today. That fund of knowledge should be enough to ask questions and understand the answers regarding the issues. Now, how many architects work hard enough to reach out to that level of know-how today
What to do on the first step of the project arrangement for the construction of a new building is, focusing on the requests about the structure and how to respond to its function. Then, some bureaucratic documents such as zoning status, map are needed. By blending all these inputs, the architect can create a project according to his / her competence. However, the important thing is not only the project itself but also the transformation of a living space that visually touches our hearts. When it comes to project coordination, almost every building owner desire to do it with a minimum budget. The architect who will surpass the bureaucracy as soon as possible and build a bigger and higher building than the permitted is the greatest architect for them. However, because of the cheap cost of such projects, the areas lost during the construction phase, the changes made during construction, the materials spent in vain cost more to the building owner. Very few people are aware of this, and many people continue to see the architect as someone who transcends the bureaucracy, not as a constructor.
An architect who has started to work on a renovation project should initially try to understand the purpose of the existing structure and how it was built: aesthetic concerns, materials, workmanship – all these should be examined to solve this issue within the framework of knowledge. It is not possible for an architect who does not internalize the existing structure to create a renovation project.
I see that recent renovation attempts based on building surveys of electronic devices, ignoring the history of the building, have been resulted negatively. On the other side, the economic assessment of the renewal projects and the demands of contemporary usage are also neglected. It is not possible to make contemporary touches on a building that was built by someone else unless the structure is fully absorbed by the architect with all the details. For this reason, I see that some repairs, mostly makeup, where everything is left as it is, causing huge costs under the name of renovation. A person who is going to make a renovation project and application should really have knowledge of architecture and application experience.
social and cultural significance of adaptive reuse
In terms of cultural history, it is important to preserve and evaluate the past. We can create an original and developed culture by using the past results. The buildings that need to be protected disseminate information about the architectural experiences of the past, city and neighbourhood. It is possible to carry these structures into the future in a way that will respond to today’s needs. Of course, it is necessary to connect structures with different time zones and demands and to use this connection in favour of the structure that needs to be protected. However, it should not be forgotten that all kinds of building renovations cost a lot, and considering the current economy, it is not possible for us to spend continuously on buildings without economic return. In the first years of my professional life, the concept of structure that needed to be protected was a priority. Today, apart from some academicians and people related to the subject, most of the society considers the structures that need to be protected as a burden. People should see this growing problem and think about what we do wrong instead of complaining.
We are responsible for moving all kinds of abstract and concrete cultural assets to the future. However, this should be done in priority to serving human life in the best way and learning for creating a future and enriching the life of today’s people.
I’d like to finish with a quote from Le Corbusier.
“You employ stone, wood and concrete, and within these materials you build houses and palaces. That is construction.
But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good, I am happy, and I say: ‘This is beautiful’. That is Architecture.”
Whether a new building or a renovation project, the goal is to make a structure that will enrich people’s lives, make them happy and touch their hearts.