The potential of form

Assessing the transformative potential of existing buildings in the post-functional era






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The research aims to define, decode, and assess the concept of transformative potential in the existing buildings through a post-functional perspective. The work intends to define the nebulous concept of transformative potential in an operative perspective through its generative elements in the architecture realm. 

At first, the literature review links the notion of potential in post-structuralist philosophy (Delanda, 2002; Jullien, 2002) with the prominent theories from hard sciences (Galilei, 1610; Gauss, 1839; Feynman, 1964) in shaping the potential as a secular concept. 

At second, the references to the potential related to existing buildings (Douglas, 2006; Byard, 1998; ) -involving the concept of flexibility (Schneider and Till 2007, Habraken 1990, Kendall et al. 1999)

and morphological patterns (Clark and Pause 2012, White 1999, Ching 1943, Stone and Brooker

2004)- underlines the main elements composing the concept of transformative potential in architecture. 

The transformative potential may express the relationship, both qualitative and quantitative, between multiple elements. As spatial elements –size, height, the geometry of plan, configuration pattern, and tectonics of structure– and matter elements –materials and embodied energy– in a trans-scalar and diachronic perspective. 

The research will analyze 24 adapted buildings across Europe as cases study through the starting potential elements and the reuse interventions. The cases studies selection will consist of studies within a variety of morpho-structural types, as Weberian ideal types (Weber, 1949). The research method follows a multidisciplinary approach integrating the research-by-design method with the retroactive-embodied energy assessment of the existing structure. The results may underline a correlation pattern between the formal starting conditions of a building and its adapting reuse intervention. 

The theoretical objective is to add the concept of transformative potential to the current preservationist debate. (Sandler, 2018; Desilvy 2017; Otero-Pailos, 2016; Cairns and Jacobs, 2014).

The task is to express the transformative potential as a relationship between its elements, capable of giving weight to multiple use-options in existing buildings.