Historic Rehabilitation

Historic Rehabilitation
Celebrating the aesthetic and commercial value of Wellington’s historic buildings
There is an un-mistakable dynamic tension created when a variety of buildings from a wide range of time periods are constructed next to one another. Together they cohesively produce an unrepeatable atmosphere that radiates throughout a built environment. Wellington is a city that has thrived under the atmospheric presence of historic buildings; if these buildings were demolished or even renovated to a point that they lost their historic integrity, the city will begin to lose the quality of character it is known for.
This project seeks to find the intersection between retaining the character and historic integrity of heritage buildings and creating a commercially viable space within them. The rehabilitionist view as advanced by David Kernohan, (1994, p.20) (1) argues that; historical buildings should be preserved whilst still creating as much efficiency for the modern user as possible.
To reach a rehabilitionist outcome for a historic renovation, there needs to be a balance between three key points: restore, repurpose and retain. The historic buildings needs to be restored in a way that has minimal aesthetic implications to the structure of the building. An approach to this is inserting a new and separate internal typology into the building that can work as a form of seismic strengthening.
The space also needs to be able to be repurposed into a commercially viable space. In todays modern society spaces are being designed around the notion of ‘pop up’ and ‘hot desking’. These rapid transitioning spaces create a gap for how renovations of commercial interiors can last more than just one lifetime. To be re-purposed successfully they will need to be transformed into open spaces that allow for spatial reconfiguration and adaptability.
The restoring and re-purposing needs to be completed in a way that retains the historic integrity of the space. The interior of a building has its own atmospheric presence like the facade of the exterior; all the details inside work together to create a unique atmosphere in the space. ‘Materials react with one another and have their radiance, so that the material composition gives rise to something unique.’ (2003, p.25) (2) As Zumthor stated all these small details work together to produce this radiance. If a site was restored and details like this were removed, the atmosphere that had once radiated would be lost. By finding a balance between these three key points a rehabilitated historic building could be developed into a commercially viable space for modern society.
1 David Kernohan, Wellington’s Old Buildings. (Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press, 1994)
2 Peter Zumthor, Atmospheres, Architectural Environments – Surrounding Objects. (Berlin, Germany: Die Deutsche Bibliothek, 2003).
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