A new design for a building is usually expected to offer a perfect match between means and goals, but when an existing building is given a new lease of life, there is much more latitude to combine form and program in a less deterministic way. In transformation projects it is not only much more acceptable to have a certain incongruity, but the imperfection of the match between the given building and its new usage actually adds character, atmosphere and allure to it.
In other words, in transformations an imperfect match doesnít have to be a shortcoming but is often an advantage. It creates space for the unexpected, the unconventional, and allows for a certain ambiguity. It is exactly this ambiguity which enriches and enhances architecture.
Ambiguity resides in the difference between the net and the gross, which is always minimized in new buildings to achieve the optimal ratio of sellable square metres. The faits accomplis of a given building transcend such rational arguments, and make it possible to freely benefit from a surplus of space, height, or structure which would otherwise be unattainable. This surplus is the unsolicited gift of the transformation of a building, which usually follows the logic that if a space is too small for a particular use, a bigger one will be made; if it is too big, so be it. The Hangar is a point in case. Here, the program didnít fit in the existing building, hence much of the hangar remained empty and could become a covered plaza, which the brief hadnít asked for. A surplus helps to elevate a transformation above the ordinary, even if the original building may be mundane.
Time and again, the work of diederendirrix demonstrates how the ambiguity produced by an imperfect match can work in a projectís favour. In that sense, building upon what is already present not only gives opportunities to save on construction time and money Ė but, of equal importance, enables a designer to make more out of a project than what is explicitly asked for.
Excerpt from: Hans Ibelings and diederendirrix architects, Make it Anew (Amsterdam/Montreal: Architecture Observer, 2018)