The old the new and the synergy of rebirth

05 Jan 2015

In architecture and across the built environment as a whole, there is a cycle of use, disuse and renewal.

It comes into being once raw land has been transformed within a hierarchy that begins with farmland and ultimately to dense, urban space that loops through periodic renewal, growth, decay and renewal again.


The old the new and the synergy of rebirth


The Cycle Of Life In The Built Environment

Like a living thing the change of urban usage moves in a wave across the landscape. In real estate the cycle of a building can be for twenty to fifty years. The planner, architect and building designer all work in collaboration to create value in the structures that they are invited to reform.

Of course, land can fall into disuse and return to wilderness. However, this is the exception as the current levels of demand are driving growth and expansion throughout the world. This can happen on many different scales, from the dereliction of a street corner due to the loss of a major commercial tenant to the depletion of entire cities.


Buildings Retired Can Renew And Return To Use

In the United States, the city of Detroit, in Michigan, has fallen on extremely hard times, in fact it has partially returned to wilderness and farming within the city limits. A more common scale to consider is a neighbourhood consisting of a few streets, which originally were put to good use at the same time. After a useful lifetime the primary users moved on to new quarters elsewhere. An example of this is the redevelopment of the Flinders Street neighbourhood in the Adelaide central business district, which fell into disuse and is currently being revitalised.

When neighbourhoods are brought back to life through investment and thoughtful redevelopment it reflects on the whole region. As the cycle comes around, inward investment in cornerstone projects lead to supporting businesses and start up small businesses that sense the economic opportunities that come with the return to occupation.


What Is To Be Built Must First Be Envisioned

It is the role of architects and designers to envision the first projects and provide the insight that leads to regrowth in older communities. Sometimes it is just the insights of one architect that makes the difference. By bringing in contemporary style, juxtaposed on the old, designers of refurbished and rehabilitated buildings can bring out the diversity and charm. For each building, neighbourhood and city there is a phase of the cycle that follows from concept, through construction, to occupation, redundancy and refurbishment, back to occupation and around again.


The Highest Use Is The Most Rewarding

It is likely that the rebirth of Detroit will require much more than a few key projects to bring its haunted streets back to life. However, there are many less extreme cases, such as Flinders Street, where a few flagship projects brought in the vision and investment to bring the streets and buildings back to higher use. The most rewarding part of the architect’s role is seeing that which was vacant and rundown brought back to vibrant life.

Staff Contribution | Thought Leadership

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