By: Syed Hamid Akbar
the city not only full of ancient buildings dating back to 7th century BC, but
also full of old buildings of dark era of early 20th century dictatorship.
These are the buildings which reflects the values of Fascism as
a 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 as
contaminated when its past is dominated by a previous use that is disagreeable
or objectionable.” The re-use of these existing structures has been a common
practice since the first buildings were constructed and yet very little
theoretical analysis of the subject exists. But due to the association of
buildings with their history or the narrative of the place, it’s a complicated
process for proposing new use which overcome its associated political,
ideological or the repulsive pervious function. Due to this equate relation
these buildings have been neglected through past to present, and due to the
neglection 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-1
of contaminated buildings’ “Firstly a
host building could be politically or ideologically contaminated and is
therefore subjugated by its past. This type of infection consists of a host
that is dominated by the propagandistic role that it once contained and subsequently
is therefore corrupted by the associations and memories of its previous purpose”.
Adaptation of these buildings for new use is a way to
save these neglected building that might otherwise be demolished. Adaptive reuse is a powerful alternative to
building demolition or destruction and can deliver a range of economic, social
and environmental benefits to society that represent good value for money. It
can extend the useful life of a facility through a change in function or
purpose from that which previously applied and take advantage of the remaining
physical life embedded in its tangible and materialistic systems. Adaptive
reuse, or adaptive re-use architecture, is the process of repurposing of old
buildings that have outlived their original purposes, for different uses or
functions while at the same time retaining their historic features. According
to the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage adaptive reuse can
be described as “Adaptive reuse is a process that changes a disused or
ineffective item into a new item that can be used for a different purpose.
Sometimes, nothing changes but the item’s use”.
a new function for contaminated buildings is also a challenging task, as what
method should be applied for overcoming the past for new use. In his paper,
Brooker have also suggested three strategies or approaches for remodeling these
contaminated buildings for adaptive reuse. And according to him a building
which is contaminated by the political or ideological reference can be
remodeled by the approach of “Intervention”. According to Brooker, “Intervention is a process that activates
the potential or repressed meaning of a specific place through a process of
uncovering, clarification and interpretation. Intervention can be destructive
as much as it can be constructive. When a contaminated building is intervened upon
it is usually a process of clarifying or translating the infection, a surgical
procedure using robust measures to stitch together the old with the new use”.
Seeing this approach in the context of Nazi’s or
Fascism influenceable context, intervention is the best phenomena for
adaptation of these buildings for new uses. Through intervention, idiosyncratic
qualities of the buildings are explored, the story behind the buildings purpose
is read and then it is altered, reshaped and retold in new way. Brooker have
also supported his idea of intervention by a case study of Nazi’s idealized
infected building in Nuremburg, Germany. If we go through the history, Nuremberg
held great significance during the Nazi Germany era.
Because of the city’s relevance to the Holy Roman Empire and
its position in the center of Germany, the Nazi Party chose
the city to be the site of huge Nazi Party conventions Since 1933 to 1938
Nazi party rallies were held in Nuremburg, so Nazi’s decided to build a large
building for such type of parties activity. For such reason right in the center
of 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 a
self-supporting roof and should have provided 50,000 seats. The building is
mostly built out of clinker with
a facade of granite panels. The design, especially the outer facade, among
other features is inspired by the Colosseum in
Rome (see-Fig 1). The foundation stone was laid in 1935, but the building
remained unfinished and without a roof. The building with an outline of an
“U” ends with two head-buildings(see-Fig-2).
Image by Nico Hofmann, Wikimedia) Fig-2
It was a project which was never completed to its full
hoist, the building still remains unfinished, and since 1945 end of world war II
the building has been unused and vacant, and declared a national monument in
In 1998 the Austrian architect Gunther Domenig won the
competition to remodel Kongresshalle to accommodate the National Socialist
Documentation Center. And Brookers approach of intervention can fully be seen
in the new form of the building along with its new function. If we examine the
building in concept of intervention we can see the building can be divide into
three parts, i-e the large U-shaped, which defines the major outline of the
project that was inspired by the Roman Colosseum and main function of the
building to host rallies, and the other two rectangular buildings on each end
of the U-shape block which marks the rallies entrance. But the designer have treated
the buildings one part only , and also in way of destructive intervention, as
explained in the definition of intervention by Brooker ” intervention can be
destructive as much as it can be constructive”. And by using the approach of destructive
intervention, designer has made a direct statement of intent by the placement
of new element in the rectangular ending part of U-shaped outline, which
symbolized the new use and which directly counter point the contaminated
history and old associations connected to the building. This new element cuts
through the rectangular block diagonally and creating an inclined narrow
corridor of 130 meters by 1.8 meters wide(see Fig 3), which on the front side
leans out of the building creating entrance for the building(see-Fig 4) and
shoots out on the back side to the open arena as a viewing deck for the open
space, which was to be the covered main hall for seating in its past function
making a link between the old building and new diagonal element.(see-Fig 5)
Fig-3: Section through the
building.(Image courtesy of Gunther Domenig Architects)
Fig-4 (Image courtesy: museums.nuernberg.de) Fig-5 (Google Earth,Edited by
in the light of contaminated buildings explained by Brooker, we can also find
many buildings in Rome, Italy. As In the early 20th century Rome was also under
the influence of a dictatorship. And this have made impact on architecture of
that time through Fascism ideology in the planning of the EUR (Esposizione
Universale Roma). Among many buildings The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (also
known as the ‘Square Colosseum’) was the most iconic building designed by Italian
architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La
Padula and Mario Romano. And due its inspirational facadeof Roman
Colosseum it is still considered to be most
emblematic architecture project of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist ideology of
deluded fantasy create a ‘new Roman Empire’.(see-Fig 6,7)
since its completion in 1943, the building has been unused and empty. But a
fashion brand “Fendi” saw some potential in the monumentality of the buildings Colosseum
inspired architecture, and adopted the structure for its headquarter in 2015.
Same as the EUR zone, in which Palazzo della Civilta is located, which was once
thought to be demolished as it was considered one of the great symbols of
fascism, 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 Fendi
and the architect tried to use the iconic monumentality of the neoclassicism
into a financial building activity of the
historical Roman fashion company. According to the designer, “we saw the building as a travertine
cube that synthesizes the force of matter and form in a simple and monumental
architecture. Inside this building, empty and unused since its construction, we
settled the many business activities of the historical Roman fashion company. A
pivotal point: to open the palace to public for the first time”.
the designer has also implied the approach of Brooker’s Intervention, but not
in a destructive way by creating some new elements in the building which points
to the buildings contaminated history, like we saw in Nuremburg, Germany.
Instead in this case designer have used constructive intervention approach for
pointing the deluded past of the building. The designer took the contaminated
past as the potential immediate context for the building, and have used the
buildings iconic façade which was initially inspired by the Great Roman
Colosseum, for creating the link between contaminated past and the new
function. 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 primary
level of the context of intervention”.
So comparing the two case studies, in which buildings
from the same era, and with same type of contamination, has been remodeled
using strategy suggested by the Brooker i-e ” Intervention” but in two
different ways, one by destructive intervention by introducing some new bold
and direct element in the building, and second by constructive intervention by
making the making the building past as a remodeling element and using buildings
iconic characteristics for pointing contamination historic influence for linking
past to present use. These both narratives can provide base generator for the
designer for modifying such types of contaminated buildings for new uses.
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