Rendering of wide pathway with pedestrians lined by buildings

2019 Halifax, Nova Scotia

RE: Vitalization

Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, 45th Annual Conference

Summary of findings

At the SSAC 2019 Conference in Halifax, Giaimo’s Mitchell May presented RE:Vitalization. Once built, a building never remains in stasis – the context, function and systems of the building are continually evolving, decaying, being replaced, and being made redundant.

 When a tenant moves out, changes to garbage collection are made, or a boiler room is no longer needed; how do these mundane changes evolve into architectural opportunities? Looking through the lens, we will examine three architectural heritage projects: A 1920’s office building with shrinking floor plates subdivided into tiny workspaces; a former retail warehouse and retail space with redundant mechanical systems and oversized spaces, and the urban laneway that links the two buildings, used for little more than garbage collection; Each of these projects use the rich base of initial construction, eventual decay or obsolescence, and changing context as their materials, offering completely new opportunities to add vitality to the city. These architectural interventions on these three sites lay the groundwork for increasingly vital buildings, streets, and city.

 This paper was presented as part of the session On Revitalization: Altering Canada’s Urban Fabric Through Architectural Interventions chaired by Giaimo’s Stephanie Mah during her tenure at DTAH and Loryssa Quattrociocchi. The concept of revitalization can hold various meanings over time and at different scales, but it ultimately implies bringing new life to existing things. When applied to the built environment, revitalization can be seen through the architectural adaptive reuse of buildings, or it can be applied to the design and planning of entire established neighbourhoods and districts. There have been several waves of revitalization throughout Canadian history, such as the City Beautiful and Garden City movements of the late-19th and early-20th century that resulted in The Model City of Mont Royal in Montreal, and postwar urban renewal in the 1950s-1970s that altered entire communities, such as Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver and Alexandra Park in Toronto. There has also been the contemporary adaptive reuse of buildings, such as the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto and Bleak House Museum in Fogo Island, all of which are examples of revitalization projects that impact the architectural and cultural narrative of Canada’s urban fabric. As our cities and communities continue to grow while existing infrastructure ages, this session aims to explore how revitalization has influenced our built landscape over time. To that end, we invite papers that address the questions: How do we determine when something needs to be revitalized and who determines this? What aspects get revitalized and why? What exactly do these projects aim to achieve and are they actually successful? How do past revitalization projects age and how is this aging addressed in the future?