Bringing New & Old Together Through Heritage Architecture

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Article by Gillian Holl, Founder & Lead Architect at Veld Architects.

Heritage architecture is about more than just a reflection of our history. It can be a bridge that connects new and old. It encompasses a wide range of practices and principles aimed at preserving where we come from while at the same time celebrating where we are going.

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Adaptive Reuse

It is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One person might look at an old, empty building and see wasted space. Ask sustainable-orientated architects to look at the same building and they might see opportunity.

The adaptive reuse of a historic building reduces the demand for new construction, promoting sustainability while simultaneously preserving its historical and architectural significance.

Some of our favourite examples of adaptive reuse include:

  • The High Line in New York, a formerly elevated railway track transformed into a captivating urban park.
  • The Tate Modern in London, an art museum within the shell of a former power station.
  • Our very own Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, a contemporary art museum that has flourished within the confines of a former grain silo.

Historical buildings can also be repurposed into other more practical spaces like apartments, offices, shopping malls, hotels etc.

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Incorporating Heritage Elements and Design Motifs in New Buildings

The modern way of building is fast. Areas of land are swept clean and new shopping centres; office blocks or flats are erected within months. These buildings are usually very contemporary-looking – the “cookie-cutter” approach. A type of design you’d see in any other city in the world.

Heritage architecture, on the other hand requires a return to slow architecture. But we don’t need to reinvent the wheel or forget all the innovative advancement modern architecture has thought us over the years.

We can merely draw inspiration from heritage architecture by using local materials and robust craftsmanship. We can embrace the distinctive design styles and motifs of the past, channelling them into a new vision.

This approach celebrates architectural traditions while adding a layer of cultural richness.

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Conservation and Restoration

What if no one thought to conserve and restore the Parthenon in Greece, the Colosseum in Rome, or the Angkor Wat in Cambodia? It would have been a sad day for the heritage of these cities for sure.

Conservation and restoration are at the heart of heritage architecture, as they ensure the long-term survival of historic structures. These practices involve meticulous research, documentation, and preservation techniques to maintain the authenticity and integrity of heritage sites.

The architecture’s role when it comes to heritage architecture has evolved. It is about more than just restoring and adapting historical structures but also applying cultural nuances in new designs, safeguarding the stories of the past.

Yes, architecture should be progressive but NEVER at the expense of our heritage.

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