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The world of adaptive reuse and historic preservation has found ways to successfully adapt and use historic buildings in modern neighborhoods. Social needs, such as for artist's housing, and needs for adaptive access, so all citizens can use the old buildings, have been successfully met. The old armories, however, have a number of challenges that are unique to their nature as urban fortresses.

The armories were developed initially as the home fort for state militias, with room for storage of ammunition and weapons, room for drilling a company or more of soldiers, storage and living quarters, administrative offices, storage and management of provisions--all of the space needed to house, feed, and equip a fighting unit of soldiers. So the armories are huge, both large in interior space, many an entire block long, and built with the sturdiness of a building designed to protect armament. This massive scale, both in size and in the thickness and weight of the walls and other structural supports, is a challenge when adapting the spaces to other uses.

The armories have mostly been in the ownership of the state, and as they were no longer needed for active military service, the state has ceded ownership over to the city. The city, having responsibility to provide some social services for their people, used the large spaces to provide homeless shelters and other social service needs. The grand scale of the buildings make them useful for a large-scale operation of this type, but neighborhoods have had difficulty when these needed but challenging uses impacted the quality of life in the neighborhood. In addition, there is some thought that the buildings, being designed as they were, should be prepped and available for citizens to use in the event of natural disasters. This potential use, while needed, is very expensive to maintain as space.

Some armories are being studied to evaluate their feasibility to be adapted into mixed income housing. Like many of these projects, competing interests of neighborhood quality of life versus the need for affordable housing makes the conversation challenging.
It will not be easy or cheap to adapt these massive military forts into uses for the modern day, with access for all and the systems that in modern life we need, such as HVAC, fire suppression systems, modern water catchment, sewage and plumbing. But their architecture is unique, and their scale and grandeur cannot be duplicated in modern times. To retain their uniqueness, we need to find suitable connections and interests between competing parties, and meet the challenge of adaptive reuse with innovative thinking.

For more information on adaptive reuse and historic building preservation, please contact us.

Published in Adaptive Reuse

When one takes the time to step back to actually study the details of a historical building's appearance, they will discover that there are clues as to what purpose the building played in the community. 

Through the years, styles and designs have evolved to meet the demands of the time. In cities, towns and villages, throughout our nation, industry, agriculture and diversity of regions inspired the designs of buildings.                   

The details in these structures, whether they are tall, fluted columns, a Flemish bond brick pattern, intricate corbels or the simple lines of a Federal style home, dictate a particular design and/or the wealth of the owner.

In times past, local craftsmen helped to build the framework for their communities in order to help with the growth and needs of their neighbors. Today, when planning a facade design for historic buildings, it's important for both the architect and the client to realize the purpose of the structure, to honor its historical value and to find ways to update its use without compromising its integrity. There are many ways in which this happens, whether by using original materials or techniques or by replicating certain features, to achieve the timeless appeal of historic buildings.

Here, at Scott Henson Architect, we act as today's local craftsmen in that we have the knowledge and experience to breathe life back into your historic buildings. If there is a project that you are thinking of taking on or have any questions regarding a historic building, please contact us .

Historic buildings are an important part of our historical landscape and it is imperative that we do justice to their designs and use.

Published in Landmarks Preservation

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