Week 6: Preserving Older Cities

MOOC Summaries - Designing Cities - Heritage, Old BuildingsWeek 6: Preserving Older Cities

“Landmarks and Historic Cities… Adaptive Re-use of Old Buildings… Preserving the Industrial Heritage…” 


  • 6-1: Introduction
  • 6-2: Landmarks and Historic Districts
  • 6-3: Adaptive Re-use of Old Buildings
  • 6-4: Preserving Industrial Heritage

6-1: Introductory Discussion

  • There are several reasons to preserve older cities:
    • social (value that communities associate with them);
    • economic (e.g. tourism – seen as authentic, branding);
    • environmental (no demolition, no new materials, no new energy).
  • Older cities encompass landmarks, historic districts, palaces, churches, ordinary homes, warehouses, factories, power stations etc.
  • The strongest impetus for preserving older cities may very well be cultural e.g. rebuilding Warsaw after WWII so that there is identity and meaning.
  • Key challenge: adapting older cities to today’s needs of the present without destroying authenticity.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://class.coursera.org/designingcities-001/lecture/51

6-2: Landmarks and Historic Districts

  • Historic preservation as a discipline started mid-19th century, and all cities have a movement of one sort or another.
  • The activities range from studying older structures’/settlements’:
    • history;
    • evolution;
    • value;
    • change and regulations;
    • investment;
    • re-use.
  • Preservation done usually in two ways:
    • Curatorial (i.e. monuments), which treat buildings as works of art;
    • Urbanistic (large territories), which hopes to create great urban environments.
  • Preservation differs from typical design and planning considerations in that it:
    • takes specific interest in what has been inherited;
    • accords priority to the cultural values of what is inherited.
  • Preservation practice has two parts:
    • recognizing and listing historic buildings (e.g. in national registers; depends on significance and integrity of buildings);
    • public policy (e.g. regulation and zoning) and design tools (e.g. design guidelines).
  • In the U.S., it has become clear that preservation movement have to leverage markets by spelling out the economic case for preveseration (e.g. tax credits).
  • One issue with preservation is its potential to be mis-used to oppose change or development.
  • Next lesson: adaptive reuse of old buildings.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://class.coursera.org/designingcities-001/lecture/81

6-3: Adaptive Re-use of Old Buildings

  • In the same way that reduce, reuse and recycle waste, buildings can be re-used.
  • This is called adaptive reuse: giving an old/older building a new use to extend its lifespan instead demolishing it.
  • Adaptive reuse has many benefits:
    • Environmental: buildings retain the energy embodied in them;
    • Density: older buildings are on existing sites instead of building even further out;
    • Economic: cheaper than building new;
    • Social: preserves history and meaning to the community.
  • How not to do adaptive re-use: facadism i.e. keeps the front but demolishes what is behind.
  • How to do adaptive re-use:
    • integrity and authenticity are key;
    • ensure what is new is contemporary and recognisable and not just an imitation;
    • layered i.e. old and new are distinct, reflecting their times (e.g. The Louvre in Paris)
    • new is compatible with the old (e.g. Selexyz Bookshop in Maastricht)
  • Case studies: developments/buildings in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Amsterdam.
  • Adaptive reuse has to delicately balance development and the retention of authenticity and the examples/case studies show it is not always easy.
  • Next lesson: preserving industrial heritage.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of https://class.coursera.org/designingcities-001/lecture/83

6-4: Preserving Industrial Heritage

  • As an economy changes, some industrial developments become redundant.
  • Instead of demolition, they can be adapted for a new purpose.
  • Older industrial developments are typically unique e.g.
    • they are large and take a lot of weight;
    • they also have a look that is now very fashionable;
    • they have economic and social meaning to the community.
  • Examples: Tate Modern in London, Caixia Forum in Madrid, Museum of Steel in Mexico, Meatpacking District, New York City, 798 Art District in Beijing etc.
  • Environmental remediation i.e. cleaning up the industrial waste and chemicals from the site is often needed.
  • However, today, many factories are built to be demolished later, and there may not be much industrial heritage to be preserved.
Chop Chop MOOCs’ summary of  https://class.coursera.org/designingcities-001/lecture/85

Return to Summaries List.

photo: depositphotos/naticastillog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *