Friday, September 19, 2014

Preserving Reminders of the Past

While land values skyrocket and the need for high-occupancy commercial and residential projects puts pressure on the Manhattan's low rise buildings, and buildings are being ripped down slowly, but surely, we are gradually losing a piece of the physical representation of our past.  

As architects, we are excited by development and new construction but we have to be aware of the cost.  There are some methods to preserve a part of the past, while still building at a size to meet today's unprecedented demands.

Here are a few bad and good examples.

Penn Station

The Midtown West train station once rivaled and possibly exceeded Grand Central Terminal in grandeur.  The beautiful, classic station was demolished in favor of a smaller, modern facility tucked under a new sports arena (Madison Square Garden).  One of the most frequented gateways to the city that was once a grand monumental entrance, became a crowded, claustrophobic experience in a station that is now ridiculed and dreaded by travelers.  Virtually nothing was preserved as a reminder of what once was.  One positive result of this scenario was the increase in awareness for Historic Preservation Societies, saving countless other buildings from the same fate in the name of "progress."  

Hearst Tower

This high-rise commercial building for the Hearst Corporation, replacing their old much smaller headquarters on the same site.  Norman Foster was commissioned to expand their space into a much larger tower.  The original 1928 cast-stone facade was braced while the interior was demolished. This preserved facade was then incorporated into the new 2006 design, creating a dynamic juxtaposition between the old and the new and implying a concept of the new growing from out of the past.  

Tate Modern

Now the most visited modern art gallery in the world, the Tate Modern in London is housed in the former Bankside Power Station.  This adaptive reuse, gave the building a whole new program life while retaining a majority of the former facility.  Additions are small, subtle, and respective of the overall architecture of the structure.

As you can see, there are examples of successful adaptive reuse of outdated structures.  The benefits include not only the preservation of the past, but conserve valuable resources by avoiding demolition and new construction from the ground up.    

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