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Sanderson, L., 2016.

Delicate Interpretations

Output Type:Conference paper
Presented at:Cite Margins City Memories

"To live is to leave traces."
Walter Benjamin.

"Those simple transformations are what really affect the life of the building. That is why we are opposed to the tendency in architecture which says that the way to cheer something up is by putting a new badge on it."
Shelia O'Donnell.

This paper is an examination of how a destructive past can be negotiated though the reuse of buildings and structures which have, at some point, housed a sinister use. By examining the relationship between the past use of a building and its new counterparts, we can begin to outline how negativity can be redefined within the shell of an existing structure, uncovering the architectural strategies of reuse as an alternative to demolition and the necessary decisions to be made when such a building is reused. Beginning with Rodolfo Machado's theory of 'Old Buildings as Palimpsest' this project will aim to assess to what extent architecture has the ability to accommodate and interpret these histories.

Buildings are engrained with the stories and histories of the people who use them and by looking at a number of key examples, this paper shall explore the connection between the destructive or traumatic past use of a building and the architectural elements which are inserted into it to create a changed use. The disturbing quality of the past use is something that should not necessarily be ignored or hidden, it is part of the narrative of the remodelling. This paper will document and catalogue ways in which this use is delicately understood and then carefully interpreted.