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Does the Demolition of Building Spaces Come With a Cost? (Video)

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © FireChickenTA99 | Flickr

What happens when a building is both futuristic and visionary in its own time, but has its life cut short when it is demolished? Is the cost of maintaining such a building so great that it has to be destroyed? This is the topic of a new documentary called A Necessary Ruin: The Story of Buckminster Fuller and the Union Tank Car Dome.

The following is a trailer for this 30 minute documentary, which I think poses some interesting questions for us to consider when taking part in the demolition of building spaces. As you watch it, ask yourself how you would make a decision about whether to salvage, renovate, demolish or create a “memorial icon” of a building:


A Necessary Ruin – Trailer from Evan Mather on Vimeo

When and How Would You “Pull the Plug” on a Building?

Let’s go back to this question about the making of a building icon. By definition an “icon” is a a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it. (Definition here) Considering this, at what point does a building become more than a sum of its parts in the minds of a people? And what makes its iconic status live on through decades and even generations?

The fate of a building seems to lead toward its evolution as a ruin. Maintenance is economically costly, yet its demolition can bear an emotional or intellectual toll in a people and/or place. So, what I ask is how can we either physically or virtually preserve a building that is lost to the perils of time? … Especially, when you stop to consider what innovations like the internet and computer modeling can do to preserve a living icon of a building and the perception received by its occupants both collectively and personally.

Is a building that reaches a certain “status” ever truly demolished? And how can you interpret what that status is? Is true preservation solely a physical renovation and maintenance mindset? Or does it lend itself more toward using a building to educate and inspire those who experience it in some form?

As an architectural designer, you should ask yourself these questions as you design building spaces; for, when trying to achieve great architecture, starting with an end in mind can give you both inspiration and some great ideas — carrying through your design process into the quality of life for your building.


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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