Constructing Change: Developing a Theory for Adaptive Reuse

By Markus Berger.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Although change is central to the study of history and familiar as a political slogan, it has not been sufficiently theorized as a set of interventions for the built environment, as a design concept for the innovative re-use of existing buildings. Developing a theory and practice for adaptive reuse is essential for developing sustainable architecture, as it is estimated that re-use requires only half the energy needed for new construction and occupies more than 50% of the US building industry.
The Austrian-American psychologist and philosopher Paul Watzlawick differentiated between first-order and second-order change in his work in the 1970s on making positive social change. If applied to the constructed environment, first-order change can be defined as a set of physical adjustments and interventions within existing structures, while second-order change requires a new way of seeing things that extends out of physical adaptations into our social value system. This paper will consider first order and second order change for developing a theory and practice for adaptive re-use such that acts of transformation, conversion, modification and intervention are tied to the imperative of ecological metamorphosis of how we see and live in our constructed landscape.

Keywords: Adaptive Reuse, Change, Existing Building, Design Concept, Ecological, Metamorphosis, Conversion, Transformation, Modification, Theory, Practice

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.33-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 7.292MB).

Markus Berger

Assistant Professor, Graduate Program Director, Department of Interior Architecture, Division of Architecture + Design, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, USA

Markus Berger is an Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director in the Department of Interior Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. He holds an MArch (Diplomingenieur für Architektur) from the Technische Universität Wien, Austria and is a registered architect (SBA) in the Netherlands. Prior to coming to the US, he practiced as an architect and taught in Austria, India, Pakistan and with UN Studio in the Netherlands. He co-founded and co-edits Int|AR—a journal on Interventions and Adaptive Reuse and currently also heads his own design firm in Providence, IO Design Inc.