Assessing Incremental Refurbishment as An Alternative to Demolish & Build-Anew: Lessons from An Architectural Design Studio Experience
Keywords:Urban Transformation, Incremental/piecemeal Refurbishment, In- fill Development, Community-led Design, Architectural Design Pedagogy
In this paper, we report on an attempt to test an alternative to the prevalent urban transformation practice in Turkey, which we made within the context and framework of an undergraduate architectural design studio. In Turkey, urban transformation almost always entails the destruction of the existing buildings and constructing brand-new ones when it comes to residential areas. This practice is ubiquitous and quite unchallenged. While urban transformation has historically been quite destructive in most countries, in recent decades there is an ongoing discussion its the alternatives, as well as various accomplished examples. Within this context, we tackled the transformation of a large residential area in Çanakkale, Turkey, for which a wholesale renewal endeavor is underway for some time, but currently is at a standstill. We started the studio with architectural and urban analyses of the area and carried out a questionnaire in order to survey the residents’ demographic and economic profile, socio-spatial practices, needs and wants regarding their dwelling and its surroundings. Our studio brief precluded demolishing most buildings and asked for proposals for their revision and refurbishment along the lines of research findings and students’ site plan decisions. The brief also required a level of strategic densification through new dwellings, social amenities, and commercial units, in order to increase the program and user diversity and to finance the whole endeavor. In what follows, we contextualize our position and contrast our studio experience with the dominant approach to urban transformation. We argue considering transformation as a process of piecemeal refurbishment of the existing fabric and incremental enhancement of the site with new buildings has advantages over the option of demolishing the entire area; especially in terms of the key notions of continuity, ecology, participation, and economy. We also dwell on the various benefits of this exercise in terms of architectural design pedagogy.
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