A superficial perspective on architecture may induce the impression that it consists in the analysis of a long series of “containers”, conceived to shelter activities, technically named "programmes". This inaccurate interpretation is distanced from the inner sense of “frozen music”, as defined by Goethe. Seen as an engine of civilizations across history, architecture acts as a phenomenon, answering to a dynamics defined both in a social scale and in a family or individual scale. We are using today pedantic terms, such as “conversion”, “resilience” or the English term "adaptive re-use", with the impression that these are conquests of our present thinking. But this process has been followed as well when Roman amphitheatres have been transformed into living areas or when Greek and Roman temples sheltered Christian basilicas, every epoch proving its own conception on the pragmatism of re-using a pre-existing building fund.
We may ask which is the context that leads to such radical and surprising transformations? Which is the common point of Late Antiquity, abruptly replaced by the Middle Age, with the search of new uses for old buildings, whose beginning was placed in the context of the oil crisis of the `70s by Sherban Cantacuzino? Maybe the consciousness of a deep economic, social, cultural crisis, pushing towards a versatile architecture, of constant and continuous adaptation.
The present context we are living – a pandemic that threw us in an unprecedented isolation situation, isn’t just another way of illustrating the same crisis? And getting out of a crisis means adaptability, therefore versatility. In a short time, what we knew to be the one-family dwelling transformed without limits in space for work, courses, school, parties with friends, sports, online performance, holidays, consulting room... How are we supposed to answer this challenge and which are the limits we may stand for? The paper is looking for answers...
Keywords: adaptability, functional conversion, dynamics of space, crisis
Published in Argument 13/2021