heritage (adaptive) reuse
In contemporary heritage literature, adaptive re-use has been identified as a process to improve the financial, environmental and social performance of buildings in the context of increasing the sustainability of existing buildings (Langston et al., 2007; Bullen, 2007).
Integral to adaptive reuse is material change, communicative intent and a self-conscious valuation of the host building that, once acknowledged, requires an explicit response. Design is used as a communicative strategy either as an end in itself or to signifier of other social and political messages. As the wider practices of heritage management have changed and evolved, so has the motivations of reusing buildings, communicated through strategies of adaptive reuse.
Relevance: where and how is the term relevant in the OpenHeritage?
Using the concepts of heritage community and participatory culture, OpenHeritage seeks to develop how local communities can be actively involved in the adaptive re-use of heritage sites. OpenHeritage will provide in-depth diagnostics of adaptive re-use processes in contemporary Europe, to gain a thorough overview of the various practices, the good solutions and the related problems. It will then use this diagnostic knowledge to devise a new, inclusive governance model of adaptive heritage re-use that turns cultural heritage re-use into an important vehicle of economic regeneration and social integration. The ‘rules’ for how adaptive reuse occurs in different places are thus often hidden in wider heritage and design practices and their policy frameworks. As such, OpenHeritage is contributing to an under-researched understanding of adaptive re-use in terms of its variable institutional and cultural positioning.
Key discussions around the term
The term ‘adaptive re-use’ appears in the early 1970s, at a time when large-scale urban reconstruction were gaining political traction across Europe; in this context, recycling buildings and putting them to new use became a distinctive practice to demolishment as well as the traditional recycling of buildings.
This can be traced to (1) evolving ideas of heritage protection, potentially closing off the option to demolish and redevelop (Ashworth, 2011); (2) evolving architectural praxis (Scarpa and others) that sought to define new dialogues between old and new fabric; and (3) evolving ideas of urbanism, informed by Jane Jacobs and John FC Turner, placing an emphasis in the utility of old, adaptable buildings and informal building practices. More recently to this we might add contemporary discourses of sustainability, advocating reusing and recycling rather than demolishing the built environment (Bullen et al 2011, Yung and Chan 2012).
Adaptive reuse is often considered a practice or process rather than a theoretical approach in much academic literature, and as such research is driven by case studies often focused on typologies and aesthetic issues.
Recent work within architecture reflect wider trends of adaptive re-use becoming a more common practice, and do take social and cultural considerations into account yet ultimately are design-oriented (Wong, 2017; Plevoets and Cleempoel, 2019; Stone: 2019).
There is a need for greater understanding of the cultural and social context of adaptive re-use projects, how the process itself transforms social and heritage value, and which actors are advocating for reuse. This includes closer attention to ‘bottom up’ practices and community-led campaigns; participatory approaches to cultural heritage have been a priority for European policy-makers in the post-2008 context of austerity. Multiple local, community led, counterculture projects across the world show alternative trajectories of adaptive re-use responding to local issues and global challenges.
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Ashworth, Gregory. 2011. “Preservation, Conservation and Heritage: Approaches to the Past in the Present through the Built Environment.” Asian Anthropology 10 (1): 1–18.
Bullen, Peter A., and Peter ED Love. 2011. "Adaptive reuse of heritage buildings." Structural survey. Vol. 29 No. 5, pp. 411-421
Plevoets, Bie, and Koenraad Van Cleempoel. 2019. Adaptive Reuse of the Built Heritage: Concepts and Cases of an Emerging Discipline. Routledge.
Provoost, Michelle, and CRIMSON historians and urbanists. 1995. “ReArch. New Designs for Old Buildings.” 1995. https://www.crimsonweb.org/spip.php?article161.
Stone, Sally. 2019. UnDoing Buildings: Adaptive Reuse and Cultural Memory. Routledge.
Wong, Liliane. 2016. Adaptive Reuse: Extending the Lives of Buildings. Birkhäuser.
Yung, Esther HK, and Edwin HW Chan. 2012. "Implementation challenges to the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings: Towards the goals of sustainable, low carbon cities." Habitat International 36, no. 3: 352-361.
Related terms in different language
Adaptive re-use today as a highly diverse practice with many forms and formats, and is linguistically translated in a multiplicity of terms – both in a ‘heritage’ vocabulary (e.g. conservation, restoration, renovation, refurbishment) and in more general terms (e.g. reuse, adapt, recycle).
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