The Architect – Heritage Practitioner as Storyteller


Tracing the Social Significance of local built heritage in the framework of adaptive reuse.

Local rural built heritage enables Resilient Environments as it is an integrated part of a social, cultural and ecological meshwork. From this point of view it becomes interesting to transcend the approach of concentrating on the building alone and to develop methods beyond this narrow focus on the object, to relate it towards a bigger framework of cultural and spatial experiences, urban and landscape structures.
Monumental built heritage is very often strategically situated on a network of old roads shaped by former times, nearby important existing crossroads or rivers to provide easy accessibility and close connection to them.
Local modest heritage on the contrary is thoroughly entangled with pathways and trails as part of subtle social, cultural and ecological meshwork. It attributes the human scale to the landscape. Its territory is often not clearly defined by a materialised boundary. And even if some times physical walls or hedges surround it, it still has no mental barrier around. It seems like no one owns it but that all have use of it.
It is a space of collective independence people use for satisfying their social needs. It became collective by its use, local significance or representation. This makes it a place of attachment and recognition.
The ecological aspects of these buildings and their material assures the minimal environmental hereditary effect on the next generation; the cultural significance in the local environment on the other hand gives them a true and authentic character and connects the buildings with the social meshwork over different generations. Local built heritage can very well adapt itself to a changing society; even give a dynamic force to small communities.
Defining methods to trace the social, cultural and ecological significance of local built heritage could help us in developing more sustainable projects of adaptive reuse.

PhD project, Gisèle Gantois (prom. prof. Yves Schoonjans, co-prom. prof. Krista Dejonge)