By: Syed Hamid AkbarRomethe city not only full of ancient buildings dating back to 7th century BC, butalso full of old buildings of dark era of early 20th century dictatorship.These are the buildings which reflects the values of Fascism asa political ideology that developed in the early 20th century after World War I.
Graeme Brook describes these buildings as contaminated buildings, “A site or building is described ascontaminated when its past is dominated by a previous use that is disagreeableor objectionable.” The re-use of these existing structures has been a commonpractice since the first buildings were constructed and yet very littletheoretical analysis of the subject exists. But due to the association ofbuildings with their history or the narrative of the place, it’s a complicatedprocess for proposing new use which overcome its associated political,ideological or the repulsive pervious function. Due to this equate relationthese buildings have been neglected through past to present, and due to theneglection of the time, space and people these buildings are becoming redundant.
Brooker have categories three types of contamination of buildings in his paper,and according to definition made by him these types of buildings come in type-1of contaminated buildings’ “Firstly ahost building could be politically or ideologically contaminated and istherefore subjugated by its past. This type of infection consists of a hostthat is dominated by the propagandistic role that it once contained and subsequentlyis therefore corrupted by the associations and memories of its previous purpose”. Adaptation of these buildings for new use is a way tosave these neglected building that might otherwise be demolished. Adaptive reuse is a powerful alternative tobuilding demolition or destruction and can deliver a range of economic, socialand environmental benefits to society that represent good value for money. Itcan extend the useful life of a facility through a change in function orpurpose from that which previously applied and take advantage of the remainingphysical life embedded in its tangible and materialistic systems. Adaptivereuse, or adaptive re-use architecture, is the process of repurposing of oldbuildings that have outlived their original purposes, for different uses orfunctions while at the same time retaining their historic features. Accordingto the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage adaptive reuse canbe described as “Adaptive reuse is a process that changes a disused orineffective item into a new item that can be used for a different purpose.Sometimes, nothing changes but the item’s use”.
Proposinga new function for contaminated buildings is also a challenging task, as whatmethod should be applied for overcoming the past for new use. In his paper,Brooker have also suggested three strategies or approaches for remodeling thesecontaminated buildings for adaptive reuse. And according to him a buildingwhich is contaminated by the political or ideological reference can beremodeled by the approach of “Intervention”. According to Brooker, “Intervention is a process that activatesthe potential or repressed meaning of a specific place through a process ofuncovering, clarification and interpretation. Intervention can be destructiveas much as it can be constructive.
When a contaminated building is intervened uponit is usually a process of clarifying or translating the infection, a surgicalprocedure using robust measures to stitch together the old with the new use”.Seeing this approach in the context of Nazi’s orFascism influenceable context, intervention is the best phenomena foradaptation of these buildings for new uses. Through intervention, idiosyncraticqualities of the buildings are explored, the story behind the buildings purposeis read and then it is altered, reshaped and retold in new way. Brooker havealso supported his idea of intervention by a case study of Nazi’s idealizedinfected building in Nuremburg, Germany. If we go through the history, Nurembergheld great significance during the Nazi Germany era.Because of the city’s relevance to the Holy Roman Empire andits position in the center of Germany, the Nazi Party chosethe city to be the site of huge Nazi Party conventions Since 1933 to 1938Nazi party rallies were held in Nuremburg, so Nazi’s decided to build a largebuilding for such type of parties activity. For such reason right in the centerof the master plan an enormous Kongresshalle building by architects Ludwig and Franz Ruff.
It was intended to serve as a congress center for the NSDAP with aself-supporting roof and should have provided 50,000 seats. The building ismostly built out of clinker witha facade of granite panels. The design, especially the outer facade, amongother features is inspired by the Colosseum inRome (see-Fig 1). The foundation stone was laid in 1935, but the buildingremained unfinished and without a roof. The building with an outline of an”U” ends with two head-buildings(see-Fig-2). Fig-1(Image by Nico Hofmann, Wikimedia) Fig-2(wikimapia.org) It was a project which was never completed to its fullhoist, the building still remains unfinished, and since 1945 end of world war IIthe building has been unused and vacant, and declared a national monument in1973.
In 1998 the Austrian architect Gunther Domenig won thecompetition to remodel Kongresshalle to accommodate the National SocialistDocumentation Center. And Brookers approach of intervention can fully be seenin the new form of the building along with its new function. If we examine thebuilding in concept of intervention we can see the building can be divide intothree parts, i-e the large U-shaped, which defines the major outline of theproject that was inspired by the Roman Colosseum and main function of thebuilding to host rallies, and the other two rectangular buildings on each endof the U-shape block which marks the rallies entrance.
But the designer have treatedthe buildings one part only , and also in way of destructive intervention, asexplained in the definition of intervention by Brooker ” intervention can bedestructive as much as it can be constructive”. And by using the approach of destructiveintervention, designer has made a direct statement of intent by the placementof new element in the rectangular ending part of U-shaped outline, whichsymbolized the new use and which directly counter point the contaminatedhistory and old associations connected to the building. This new element cutsthrough the rectangular block diagonally and creating an inclined narrowcorridor of 130 meters by 1.8 meters wide(see Fig 3), which on the front sideleans out of the building creating entrance for the building(see-Fig 4) andshoots out on the back side to the open arena as a viewing deck for the openspace, which was to be the covered main hall for seating in its past functionmaking a link between the old building and new diagonal element.(see-Fig 5) Fig-3: Section through thebuilding.(Image courtesy of Gunther Domenig Architects)Fig-4 (Image courtesy: museums.nuernberg.
de) Fig-5 (Google Earth,Edited byAuthor)Nowin the light of contaminated buildings explained by Brooker, we can also findmany buildings in Rome, Italy. As In the early 20th century Rome was also underthe influence of a dictatorship. And this have made impact on architecture ofthat time through Fascism ideology in the planning of the EUR (EsposizioneUniversale Roma).
Among many buildings The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (alsoknown as the ‘Square Colosseum’) was the most iconic building designed by Italianarchitects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno LaPadula and Mario Romano. And due its inspirational facadeof RomanColosseum it is still considered to be mostemblematic architecture project of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist ideology ofdeluded fantasy create a ‘new Roman Empire’.(see-Fig 6,7) Andsince its completion in 1943, the building has been unused and empty. But afashion brand “Fendi” saw some potential in the monumentality of the buildings Colosseuminspired architecture, and adopted the structure for its headquarter in 2015.Same as the EUR zone, in which Palazzo della Civilta is located, which was oncethought to be demolished as it was considered one of the great symbols offascism, but finally chose to give a new residential and administrative use,which is now the main financial hub of Rome. In the similar manner the Fendiand the architect tried to use the iconic monumentality of the neoclassicisminto a financial building activity of thehistorical Roman fashion company.
According to the designer, “we saw the building as a travertinecube that synthesizes the force of matter and form in a simple and monumentalarchitecture. Inside this building, empty and unused since its construction, wesettled the many business activities of the historical Roman fashion company. Apivotal point: to open the palace to public for the first time”.Herethe designer has also implied the approach of Brooker’s Intervention, but notin a destructive way by creating some new elements in the building which pointsto the buildings contaminated history, like we saw in Nuremburg, Germany.
Instead in this case designer have used constructive intervention approach forpointing the deluded past of the building. The designer took the contaminatedpast as the potential immediate context for the building, and have used thebuildings iconic façade which was initially inspired by the Great RomanColosseum, for creating the link between contaminated past and the newfunction. It is same as Machado have explained ” In remodeling, then the past is represented by the old object itself.But this object is also the most immediate context of the work of remodeling;the past pervades the building and the building itself becomes the primarylevel of the context of intervention”.
So comparing the two case studies, in which buildingsfrom the same era, and with same type of contamination, has been remodeledusing strategy suggested by the Brooker i-e ” Intervention” but in twodifferent ways, one by destructive intervention by introducing some new boldand direct element in the building, and second by constructive intervention bymaking the making the building past as a remodeling element and using buildingsiconic characteristics for pointing contamination historic influence for linkingpast to present use. These both narratives can provide base generator for thedesigner for modifying such types of contaminated buildings for new uses. References Brooker, G. &Stone, S.
(2004). Rereadings: Interior Architecture and the Principles ofRemodellingExisting Buildings. London: RIBA Enterprises.Machado,R. (1976). Old buildings as palimpsest. Stamford: Progressive Architecture.
Domenig,G. (2002). Confronting the architecture of evil. Milan: Domus 847, April.LangstonC. (2011) Green Adaptive Reuse: Issues and Strategies for the BuiltEnvironment. In: Wu D. (eds) Modeling Risk Management in SustainableConstruction.
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