The Beneficial Past: Promoting Adaptive Reuse as a Beneficial Design Method for East and South-East Asia

Ch'ng, Keefe
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The pace of modernizing Asian cities has created a threat of erasing their architectural heritage, history, and sense of place. This is true particularly in regard with many industrial neighborhoods and utilitarian buildings that are not considered as ‘important’ part of architecture heritage than older monuments and other preservation sites. This Doctor of Architecture research project will provide clear evidence to show that many exisiting industrial buildings in Asia are not only significant part of the architectural heritage of their context, but also potential targets for adaptive reuse. Hence, this study defines adaptive reuse as a beneficial, green design method for Asian cities, citizens, and developers alike. The method of adaptive reuse should be practiced in East and South East Asia, on industrial and utilitarian buildings, to prevent the disappearance of urban historic character. However, the practice should be authentic, preserve original materials, and not replicate portions that are nonexistent. The focus of this research is to cover adaptive reuse of industrial and utilitarian buildings, an architecture that is often underutilized, unnoticed, and demolished without a whim of thought in Asia. The focus cities of Beijing, Yokohama, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore will be used for this research, because elucidating examples of successful adaptive reuse can be found in these cities. In addition, this research will discuss international case studies of adaptive reuse in order to further develop basis for the applications of adaptive reuse method in Asia. This project will center around seven conjectures to why Asian urban developers might be reluctant to adaptively reuse buildings. The seven conjectures will define: Appropriate adaptive reuse, clarify adaptive reuse, address issues of danger in adaptive reuse, address the significant histories of industrial development of Asian cities, discuss the interest in adaptive reuse, illustrate the profitability for adaptive reuse, and finally conform international standards that fit the Asian context. This project’s conclusion will illustrate that by changing the function of old industrial buildings in Asia, they can continue to be part of the architectural heritage of their location, and preserve its sense of place. This D.Arch project does not seek to change the world, but aims to warn against wanton demolition of the existing built environment for the sake of development.
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