Date of Award
Master in Interior Architecture [Adaptive Reuse]
Eduardo Benamor Duarte
Though we don’t think of it this way, “Adaptive Reuse” often happens naturally, guided by users who modify their physical environment to satisfy urgent living needs. While these modifications may appear haphazard, they show the user’s individualism and life philosophy. We, as designers, should embrace these interventions to explore how to participate with the occupants’ adaptive reuse process over time. Given the richness of adaptation within the old residences in the ancient Chinese city of Suzhou, it is an appropriate place to explore both the skill of self–modification and the potential for interaction of designers in this process.
The old residences in Suzhou have two fates ultimately, either being destroyed for new construction or being restored for tourism and commercial space. I suggest
a third option: introducing occupant activism and authorship to acknowledge the ignored history of these places, as a demonstration of how people adapt to these buildings and how these buildings have survived over time.
The old buildings cannot quickly adapt to shifting life habits caused by the industrial revolution and housing policy. However, through my observations of the sites, people are designing their living space spontaneously, incorporating household appliances, building technology, and customs within a limited cost. Thus, I ascribe value to the organic change that has been crafted over time to align with larger societal shifts and acknowledging the user’s actions as adaptive reuse design.
Assuming the role of curator, without any intent to disturb the existing condition, this thesis proposes a speculative reality where I live in the site and encourage continued change. Setting Mr. Shen’s house as a container to implement my reinterpretations of the modifications, I’m using photos, hand drawings, plans, and creating categories through programs, building elements, and technologies to envision the fiction scenario. In 2042, children grow up and become masters of adaptive reuse. Come 2062, old families move out and new families come in, the spirit of adaptive reuse will be inherited, and the site will become a mecca for spreading self-design.
What’s the boundary between everyday life and design? I try to use the untrained version of adaptive reuse to push design more to the side of everyday life. We, as designers, should practice our perspective of seeing the space and reconsider our role in design. And I encourage residents who live in the old residences to recognize and celebrate what they have done together wisely and carefully.
Wang, Jiayi, "Endless construction : occupant activism and authorship" (2022). Masters Theses. 977.
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