Urban Renewal in the City Fabric

by Maja Roic on December 7, 2014

The transformation of the historical context in City redevelopment

clip_image002The topic of city redevelopment extends throughout the history of architecture. Likewise, no other subject related to architecture will cause so much heated arguments as redevelopment.

What do I then mean with this term? In brief, city redevelopment is a method of subsequent insertion of architectural objects between two existing buildings and the neighbourhood, which is already mostly built.

One of the definitions also says that urban (or city) redevelopment is the rehabilitation of city areas by renovating or replacing dilapidated buildings with new housing, public buildings, parks, roadways, industrial areas, etc., often in accordance with comprehensive plans.

On the basis of established principles, we determine the methods by which we approach the redevelopment. We can distinguish four different methods: facsimile, adaptation, emphasis and contrast.

Related to redevelopment, a new term appears, adaptive reuse. It refers to the process of reusing an old site or building for a purpose other than which it was built or designed for. Along with brownfield reclamation, adaptive reuse is seen by many as a key factor in land conservation and the reduction of urban sprawl. It can be regarded as a compromise between historic preservation and demolition.

When talking about city centres, a defined urban fabric, the question is whether and with what measure should we start the new construction within this zone? This question arises mostly because any aggressive intervention in a defined urban fabric could permanently impair his integrity as a whole and the city’s historical and cultural assets.

clip_image004In the first place it is necessary to define the zones where it is possible to perform such interventions, and of course the criteria, so that we do not significantly impair the integrity of the area.

Since city centres are mostly highly defined unified areas, for them the most suitable method of integral revitalization is the one without radical structural work. But even in this area more complex interventions are possible, in the first place it is the peripheral areas of urban centres, and the undeveloped or damaged areas in the centre itself.

As mentioned earlier, interpolations differ in four methods: facsimile, adaptation, emphasis and contrast. This last one, which expresses longing for the opposite, is reserved only for the best architects, but even then it does not guarantee success, since there is a thin line between superb creation and a failure.

There are some great examples of interpolation, i.e. the incorporation of new buildings into the historic fabric during the post-war reconstruction, which is usually based on the concept of harmonization of old and new.

clip_image006If in this context we experience the city redevelopment as a process, we can say that it is the result of active cooperation of urban planners, architects and conservators.

But the question is whether the redevelopment at the present time is a question in which only a narrow circle of experts should participate, or the politics and government, and to what extent the citizens and their public interests have the right to participate in the process of its creation, especially if we are talking about a protected urban zones and squares, that we can call areas of shared memory?

Additionally, city redevelopment can have many positive effects. Replenished housing stock might be an improvement in quality; it may increase density and reduce sprawl; it might have economic benefits and improve the global economic competitiveness of a city’s centre. It may, in some instances, improve cultural and social amenity, and it may also improve opportunities for safety and surveillance.

clip_image008Shown on the photos above, Bankside Power Station is a former oil-fired power station, located on the south bank of the River Thames, in the Bankside district of London. It generated electricity from 1952 to 1981. Since 2000 the station’s building has been used to house the Tate Modern art museum. For anyone who has been there, the re-use of the building in this new way is clearly very successful.

I also recommend reading a post on the transition from Triple Helix to Quad Helix approach, explaining how Bearing includes the academia, government, business and civil society in our studies and analysis.

About Maja Roic :

Maja Roic has recently finalised her Master of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Zagreb, and works as an analyst with Bearing, where she works on pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, cost-benefit analysis, translations and document preparation, as well as research and case studies.
In 2012-2013 she was an exchange student at the Technische Universität in München.
She is the National Contact for Croatia for the European Architecture Students Assembly (EASA).

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