How Buildings Learn

Earlier this week I finished reading a very interesting book.

How buildings learn, construction, history, Stewart BrandHow Buildings Learn: What happens after they’re built by Stewart Brand is a great book about the history of buildings.

I really enjoyed reading through this book about how buildings change over time.

In the cover photo you see on the left two almost identical buildings, and on the right you see the same two buildings after more than a century has passed.

Both of the buildings have had multiple structural changes and additions.

The book made me think of some of the buildings that I have seen change over time.

Think about how your house has changed, or maybe your place of work.

One of the buildings I am thinking about is the High School that I went to in Ashland, Kansas.

Ashland High School, Ashland Kansas, 1963, School Dedication, Architectural DrawingThe High School building was built in 1963 and by the time I went to school there in the 80’s there was already a few changes, but most of them were internal.

Blueprints, John W. Hines and Associates, Ashland Kansas, Wichita KansasI wrote quite a bit about the building in my post 1963 School Dedication and talked about some of the changes.

How Buildings learn, Ashland High School, change with timeHere you can see what the building looks like now. With a quick glance it may not look like many changes were made. However, I knew this building very well and can see all the changes that were made in the early 80’s.

The courtyard in the classroom wing was enclosed and the library was expanded. A set of locker rooms along with a large pool was added and the shop building was doubled in size.

I have not been back to the building for a very long time, but I can tell from this picture that there have not been any more additions to the structure.

Does that mean that the building has not changed?

No, you just cannot see the changes that have been made over time to the interior of the building. I have seen many pictures of the inside of the building in posts on Facebook and it does look quite different.

However, many of the changes in any building are sometimes transparent to even the people who use them every day. There are changes in wiring, plumbing, air handling and other services. I know that many wiring changes were made in my old High School to bring digital services to the classrooms.

Technology is a big driver for change in a building. If you look at very old buildings, you can see how some were changed with the introduction of indoor plumbing or electricity. Sometimes the changes were not so pretty.

Old Wiring, Barns, Ceramic Insulators, ElectricianIn some old buildings you may see wiring that looks like this.

In Europe I have seen old buildings with all of the water and sewer pipes running on the outside of the walls.

I also think of some of the houses that my Dad would buy and remodel when I was a kid. We would make major updates to kitchens and bathrooms. These two rooms undergo the most changes in houses over the years and this is mostly because of the introduction of new technology and also the fact that they contain most of the mechanical systems in a house.

I could continue my wandering thoughts about buildings changing, but I need to get this posted. Perhaps someday my thoughts will again wander this way and you will see another post about how buildings learn.

How much has a building in your life changed?



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