The temporary and the permanent

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1993
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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Abstract

When the design of a building is understood as a creation of ideas, and construction as putting these ideas into reality, then a building is only created once, and every change or growth will be just another construction phase. Under these circumstances, the act of creating the basis for flexibility requires the knowledge about quality and location of changes at a time when the building, Its use and Its user configuration do not exist. Since form and function are closely tied together, designing for flexibility will influence form. In the past, what was thought to be the most flexible building tended to have the most unspecific form. It must be the contributIon of architecture to achieve both, the adaptability for change, and the ability to express and interpret time, place and meaning.

Since the introduction of mass production, building flexibility has been a leading economic factor in the planning of industrial and commercial facilities. Technological progress not only affects production conditions, but also constantly redefines requirements for spatial quality and the building conception.

For the benefit of architectural meaning, and a work environment that can meet human requirements under changing conditions, planning methods and architectural concepts must distinguish between spaces with different flexibility demands. The sum of functions in a building can be divided in work-related and people·related activities. Work-related activities are production-oriented involving a relatively high degree of technology. People-reIated activities are oriented toward the basic human needs involving a relatively low degree of flexibility. Whereas work related functions have a high frequency of change affecting the building in many degrees, people-related spaces hardly ever change experiencing rearrangements rather than construction work. In architectural design, the relationship between these two different types of space finds expression. As examples in the past show, there is a variety of architectural interpretation of flexibility. The ability to replace elements in a building’s metabolic transformation is influenced by architectural order. In the design of a Research and Development Center an order is created serving work and people functions and distinguishing between temporary and permanent areas.

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