Additional Thoughts: Improving the experience of what exists

DAAP addition designed by Peter Eisenman

Have you ever walked through a building that has grown through several additions? These buildings amaze me, not only because you can trace the evolution of building technology through them, but also because because you can see how trendy architecture can be. The impossible layout of hallways is frustrating, but there are occasionally delightful breezes thanks to the unequal air pressures from competing air condition systems. You know, those indoor winds that are kinda creepy and make it hard to open or close doors? I call them building farts.

Hospitals and schools may be the building typologies that most frequently have these addition on an addition growth patterns, and it seems that nearly every addition tries to establish a new logic. Why? I can understand not wanting to merely extrude from an existing building; I can understand wanting to make an addition that stands out from what already exist, but what I can’t understand is ignoring how the building will be experienced or could grow in the future. Even when I’ve seen drawings of how additions will integrate with existing buildings, the drawings are usually a site plan, more interested in parking than in anyone walking around inside after they park their car.

It’s not easy. The evolving myriad of codes and regulations make it difficult for contiguous constructions to share more than a fire-rated door. And there are some things that buildings just can’t do: like easily relocate a load-bearing wall or elevator, but planning for growth is imperative if you want an addition to live for very long. Eventually, the new addition will longer be new and could easily be bulldozed if it blocks the future more than it connects to it. Instead of inventing a new logic, additions should extend and improve the experience of what exists, realizing the novelty and new building smell will evaporate sooner or later.


November 4, 2011 / By