What am I thinking about today? For those of you that follow me (Bueller…anyone?), you know most of my work as an architect has been with adaptive reuse projects mainly in my hometown or nearby communities. We take these exhausted, old buildings and attempt to resurrect them.
It’s not easy.
Why have we given up on these and (developers) have gone to the suburbs to concrete block buildings, slab-on-grade construction with steel joist roof framing and some cheesy EIFS stucco on the outside? It’s easy, it’s quick, and in most cases it’s cheap. Those buildings are flexible, mutable and can support most commercial uses without much alteration. They’re lifeless and are tomorrow’s dinosaurs.
Isn’t that how we like to live?
We will submit that many of the (former) building owners, who used these buildings for years, did the best they could. Perhaps there were few codes or unenforced codes, or worse, people ignored the codes. They fixed things with what they had available. I’ll call out a few as irresponsible and absent.
We’ve mortgaged our responsibilities onto the backs of this generation to decide to restore, abandon or remove these structures. Quickly irritated at the investment essential to achieve current codes (minimum safety folks), my clients often interrogate me when much is self-evident. If people are moving back to cities as some prophesize, then we can no longer ignore this elephant.
Don’t mind me, I’ll be over here cleaning this up.