Page B1.1 . 18 May 2005                     
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    Ethics of Adaptive Reuse

    by Vani Bahl

    Today's renewed interest in "green" architecture should heighten attention to the ethic of preservation, as a cornerstone of sustainability. Now that the idea of recycling waste has permeated our culture, I believe we should adopt the slogan, "recycle wasted architecture."

    The case for adaptive reuse is not just nostalgic but economic. Construction costs are growing, we can't afford to rebuild the environment every generation. By every accepted economic index, including increased tax revenues and increased business activity, recycling in architecture proves its viability.

    For preservation to succeed, we have to shed our old habits of tearing down old buildings and starting over. Instead, we should see architectural residue from the past as a repository of vast physical, human, and cultural energy.

    In Rajasthan, India, I have found numerous examples of 15th century structures that have been restored and reinhabited. The Neemrana Fort Palace, once a ruin, is now a heritage hotel. Other structures, reduced to near rubble, are crying out for new life. Though damaged, wall and ceiling surfaces can be restored, providing ready-made rich interiors. We can benefit from the several-century-old craftsmanship, preserving that human energy.   >>>

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    Neemrana Fort Palace, Rajasthan, India, a 15th-century fort, has been restored for adaptive reuse as a heritage hotel.
    Photo: Vani Bahl

    ArchWeek Image

    A formerly grand, abandoned fort in Shahar, Rajasthan, India could be rescued from becoming rubble and given a new lease on life.
    Photo: Vani Bahl

     

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