How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built

The concept behind this book is that buildings are meant to evolve and change; they are constantly changing. While they may be designed for a particular use, they eventually adapt due to “usages in and around them constantly changing.” This is a cyclical process though. Brand then breaks down two types of buildings: low road and high road. Low road buildings are those that have low visibility, low rent, no style, and high turnover. These elements make the buildings perfect for adaptive reuse as they allow for creative transitions. “Economic activity follows Low Road activity.” As low road buildings are reused, they create interest and activity in the area surrounding the site. “Low Road buildings are peculiarly empowering.” Brand finishes by describing the concept of the scenario-buffered building. He believes that architects and city planners can build a structure first by outlining a scenario plan in order to ensure the building is flexible and able to change over time. This concept can also be applied at the community level (rather than building level) where planners and citizens can develop a scenario plan that allows their community assets as a whole to be flexible with the ebbs and flows of growth and economy.

As Winston Churchill said “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

Author: Stewart Brand
Published: 1994
Available: Amazon

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