Critical encyclopaedia of restoration and re-use of twentieth-century architecture

Design for existing structures, whether concerned with rehabilitation or functional refurbishment, restoration or conservation, or with technical-constructional skills, requires capability and practical knowledge of ad hoc design strategies supported by suitable critical and operational tools. Suitable strategies and techniques do not yet feature in current design teaching in Swiss colleges, yet they ought to be part of the course programmes followed by architecture students, especially as 70% of the work currently carried out in the country is concerned with existing building stock.

Recent successes in re-use and rehabilitation, from cases of individual buildings to urban schemes, whether concerned with traditional heritage or twentieth-century architecture, have shown how design begins with the study of history, leading to a reconstruction of the past life of the object and an examination of the various aspects that define its intrinsic character in relation to a precise context. Study of the material history of built structures (including the essential work of geometric survey and material-constructional analysis), together with historical and critical investigation, supported by diagnostic evaluation of the object’s state of preservation and by thematic assessment at several levels, are therefore key instruments. They are central to developing an understanding of the object and useful in uncovering design potential and defining strategies for intervention.

This project aims to develop and publish a “Critical encyclopaedia of restoration and re-use of twentieth-century architecture”. The term “encyclopaedia” refers to the systematic sorting of knowledge and its delivery in an ordered and organic form; the adjective “critical” underlines the selective and non-exhaustive nature of the project.

Project funded by the CUS (Swiss university conference) Research undertaken in the framework of the « Swiss cooperation project in architecture », EPFL in collaboration with the Accademia di architettura – USI, the EPFZ and Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana- SUPSI

TSAM critical encyclopaedia