Old is Gold
Dear FuturArc readers,
In attempting to embark on a journey of uncovering and highlighting old architecture that is still in use today—with some even serving its original functions—and have been designed to be climate- and context-responsive eons ago, we thought the word gold will fit the topic nicely.
The word is not only often used to convey something old yet precious, but it also resonates with something Dr Johannes Widodo (The FuturArc Interview) said when he raised key questions of the whats and whys of conservation and heritage. He pointed out that the most important factor now is economic viability: “If there is no money, there is no honey.” One needs gold (money) to conserve/create gold (heritage architecture), as it seems in today’s predominantly capitalist market, the sustainability argument of not demolishing and building anew for the sake of reducing carbon emissions is not enough!
Heather Banerd (Main Feature) made a case for conserving culturally and socially significant architecture such as the ‘middle-aged’ condominiums in Singapore, even though they are not considered “colonial-era architectural heritage”, which are more commonly preserved. With the current built environment forming two-thirds of all global building stock within the next couple of decades, Banerd highlighted how it seems “wildly optimistic to imagine that we can reduce emissions by tearing down and rebuilding, and ludicrous to think that in doing so, we would be losing buildings that are already more climate-appropriate than many new developments.”
On how one decides what to conserve, Gurmeet S. Rai (In Conversation) had this to say, “If somebody wants to conserve a building because it’s part of their culture or identity or history or for any other reason, you conserve it.”
Among the most enlightening insights from Dr Widodo was when he said, “Change is inevitable. Therefore, conservation is the management of change. And heritage is always in motion, moving from the past to the present and the future.”
One seldom sees heritage as something fluid, let alone a movement of the past to the present and future. And yet, it is. Through what lens are we looking at heritage architecture? We are using today’s climate and today’s socio-political eyes to see architecture of the past. How then do we appreciate them? How do we ‘see’ them as relevant today? Would we see them the same way if they have not been restored to some use (based on the current definition of use)—which could either be culturally/historically appropriate (i.e., authentic to its original intent, spirit or use) or what is presently needed?
We highlighted several projects that we hope will convey the delicate and sensitive nature of conservation—from reviving countryside architecture, ecosystems and livelihoods to centuries-old houses and decades-old condominiums—through restoring not just buildings, but also the mindset and soul of the people.
In the following pages, you will also see through the lens of our very own FuturArc designer Hans Lim as he takes you on a journey through his snapshots and sketches of what’s endearing to him about the old—and gold—places in Malaysia.
Table of Contents
3Q 2023: GREEN AWARDS | CROSS-GENERATIONAL ARCHITECTURE
2Q 2023: OLD IS GOLD
1Q 2023: MOBILITY & TRANSPORT