We all know it from home. Every few years, or let's make it a decade sometimes, the time comes for a makeover of our four walls. A bit of paint, some new furniture, maybe a dining room becomes a children's room or vice versa. Just as life needs it. Sometimes an appliance unexpectedly breaks and we are forced to invest in something.
This part of the construction industry is not a special case for larger institutions such as hospitals or universities, but a constant companion. There, maintenance is a constant necessity and substantially important, especially for buildings that have been in existence for a long time. The older the buildings are, the more adaptation in terms of safety is at the top of the to-do list in addition to design and substantial maintenance. This attempt to bring a building from another era into the 21st century in terms of safety technology often turns out to be a great challenge. Fire protection, escape routes, passageways, lifts, ventilation systems and also the general technical supply lines bring new standards to the existing buildings that the architect could not have known about at the time of construction.
Many would now think that it is better and cheaper to demolish and rebuild these buildings. This may be true in some cases, but dealing with the past of building culture is always a gain. For this path leads to unbelievably high ceiling heights and tall windows that illuminate the rooms. On to vaulted ceilings, charming inner courtyards and generous staircases with entrance halls in front. Now, if you had a pram with you or were otherwise restricted in your movement, you would of course be increasingly confronted with barriers in historic buildings. This fact is one of the reasons for the necessary renovation and also shows how important it is. I see the goal of enabling all people to access and use the beauty of the existing buildings safely and on an equal footing as a task that I am happy to take on.
Text: Petra Meisenbichler | Meissl Architects