MA Students will attend the Fourth International Conference on the Constructed Environment

Amy Selvaggio, Dana Hamdan, and Kristen Bender will be presenting student papers at the upcoming Fourth International Conference of the Constructed Environment at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Lisbon, Portugal October 4-5.

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The conference will explore the forms and functions of the constructed environment during a time of dramatic and at times disruptive change. The conference is a cross-disciplinary forum which brings together researchers, teachers and practitioners to discuss the past character and future shape of the built environment. The resulting conversations weave between the theoretical and the empirical, research and application, market pragmatics and social idealism.

Key issues being discussed and presented are Design and Planning Processes, Building Processes, Environmental Impacts, & Social Impacts. Each of the students will be presenting within one of these themes, raising questions about the future of adaptive reuse and design today. Listed below are their abstracts.

Adapting the Anchor: Reassigning the Role of Deal Malls and Vacant Big Box Stores-Amy Selvaggio

Many definitions of the word anchor emphasize its ability to bind a body to a specific place. Whether it is the Town Square, Main Street, or City Center, every society in a built environment revolves around an anchor. The anchor of a place provides common ground, public space, and resources. However, due to continuous suburban sprawl, the majority of Americans now live in a built environment without a traditional anchor; they do have, however, the major definitive element of suburbia – the retail anchor. Retail anchors in the form of malls and big box stores “anchor” the suburban context in which they reside. Due to the nature of sprawl these anchors are continuously moving outward in pursuit of bigger and cheaper development, failing to fulfill the role of attaching a community to a place. Sprawl has left the suburban environment spotted with large, vacant buildings often holding little architectural or historical significance. These defunct structures still retain the value of once, if only briefly, anchoring the suburban community surrounding them and the question of their reuse is a common undertaking. By both “de-malling” and “re-malling,” the use of existing infrastructure can set a new anchor, restricting the motion of suburban sprawl.

Rebuilding Beirut: A Resilient Approach to Post-war Reconstruction-Dana Hamdan

Crisis can be defined as a worsening set of conditions, immediate or foreseen, with various scales of physical or perceived impact. Confronting crisis, resilience is the ability to react, recover, or resist. “Rebuilding Beirut” is a paper devoted to understanding the concepts of crisis and resilience as manifested within the context of the constructed environment. It sheds the light on architecture strategies, namely adaptive reuse as a means to achieve or embody resilience in the face of a devastating calamity. Human beings can achieve normal equilibrium when threatened by adverse circumstances through a set of coping psychological mechanisms. In a parallel manner, buildings can also be resurrected in the wake of abandonment and ruin. An analogy can be drawn between psychological mechanisms of recovery and architectural strategies to save the devastated constructed environment from oblivious demolition.
In 1975 civil war erupted in Lebanon to end 15 years later. The city of Beirut was the most affected by this tragedy, with hundreds of thousands of people dead and many neighborhoods razed to ground. It was a war that resulted in a collective trauma leading the Lebanese to question their national identity, and facing this post-traumatic calamity, Lebanese need to endorse their resilience.
This paper claims that national resilience of the Lebanese can be achieved through architecture, and in particular through the adaptive reuse strategy that saves buildings from amnesiac demolition and nostalgic restoration. It presents different examples of post-war reconstruction and discusses them along a psychological counterpart.

The Sustainable Divide: Conflict of Preservation & Adaptive Green Design-Kristen Bender

This paper will investigate the ongoing struggle between preservation and adaptive reuse in the modern design field today. The origins of adaptive reuse and preservation will be discussed as well as the evolution of these movements throughout time from multiple theorists’ viewpoints. Many see the divide between preservation and adaptability great because of differing ideologies and methods of sustainability. Case Studies will be analyzed to see which ideologies could be more effective in the renovation of buildings in present day. With the continued inability to change with the time of the building and the people within, preservation as a movement, will eventually die out instead of becoming a lifelong adaptive reuse strategy of reusing existing buildings. As Darwin states, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, but the one most adaptable to change.”

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