Reusing existing building structures significantly reduces the need for raw materials, energy, and carbon-intensive processes. Beyond improving the energy efficiency and material ecology of a building, the continuous reuse and repurposing of the city fabric is also beneficial on the urban level as today structural vacancy contributes to the degradation of neighborhoods, and the monofunctional character of buildings decreases social cohesion. Furthermore, adaptive reuse contributes to the orientation within the city and, more generally, as an identity factor of neighborhoods. Buildings are connected to their immediate surroundings through several layers, i.e., the load-bearing structure as the permanent site, its envelope as a physical boundary, and the accesses and circulation as a coupling of users and functional spaces. Understanding both the city and its buildings as porous spaces and arranging building layers meaningfully as membranes organizing mixed use in both time and space can substantially contribute to a more resilient city fabric. Yet current adaptability models in architecture describe the building often as an isolated object and disregard its vital and dynamic interconnection with the urban context. This paper studies the reciprocal effects of converted building structures on their transformed neighborhoods. Based on the interventions in two case studies in Belgium, traced through archive material and interviews with stakeholders, the transforming physical and functional connections of the building and its urban context are modeled. The first part presents qualitative findings of the two case studies, in the second part, findings are systematically contextualized in a larger database of converted buildings. Findings are eventually distilled which contribute to a larger conceptual understanding of the adaptability of buildings.
Robbe Pacquée is a doctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp. He obtained his Master of Architecture with highest distinction in 2021. Throughout his studies, Robbe worked at several architecture offices in Belgium. In the fall of 2021, he started his Ph.D. project on the adaptability of building structures and the design for re-use titled ‘Spatial Porosity of Building Structures’ at the Henry van de Velde Research Group (Fellowship of the Flemish Research Fund). Currently, Robbe is also involved at the Flanders Architecture Institute as a curator for the Flanders Architecture Day 2023.
Mario Rinke is a professor at the University of Antwerp. He researches and teaches structural engineering and construction aspects of architecture. Trained as a civil engineer and working in the field of architecture for many years, he is particularly interested in transformation processes of technical knowledge, materials, and institutions. As a structural engineer, he worked for offices in London and Zurich. He received his Ph.D. from ETH Zurich in 2013 and has been a lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture at ETH Zurich and at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, as well as a visiting professor at Tor Vergata University in Rome. He is a founding member of the International Association of Structures and Architecture (IASA).