Our Ideas

The old/new design philosophy

    Previous Next
    • Blog Post

      Building (by definition new) is always the act of changing what exists (by definition old), and, whether intended or not, relationships are formed between the two. The complex relationships of old and new can be orchestrated not only into functional architecture and a dynamic part of a city, but can also impart authentic meaning that embodies diversity, honesty, creative tension, cultural continuity, and sustainability. The old/new philosophy applies both ways: to old spaces being renewed and to new spaces creating a relationship with existing conditions. We believe that architecture of enduring value is inherent in this old/new philosophy in the following ways >

    • A Framework for Relative Meanings

      On the most general level, the duality of old/new offers a time continuum on which potential meanings and associations of the design and its context become interrelated. This continuum offers the potential for ordering, reordering, and creation of new meanings that neither the old nor the new possess separately.

    • Time and Change are Fundamental to Architecture

      Similar to gravity, natural systems, and urban systems, time is foundational to the shaping of architecture and therefore a worthy platform from which to explore meaning. Buildings interact with their preexisting natural settings, and each new building changes the part of the city from which it rises. Over time, weather and entropy change buildings, displaying the power and disorder of architecture’s antithesis—chaos. Shifting occupants, cultural values, and human needs prompt buildings and cities to change, leaving residue of what was. Such alterations can be viewed as vibrant inspiration for new ideas and the editing of places into dynamic and interactive collages that affirm living processes.


    • The Myth of the Old

      Meanings are imparted by time. In many cases, the public will choose traditional architectural styles for personal spaces, housing, offices, and institutions because of their familiarity. Although these traditional choices can be applied to new buildings, the authenticity of old places cannot be recreated through mimicry. By respecting the autonomy and authenticity of both the new and the old, any resultant combination of old and new will have its own authenticity.

    • The Myth of the New

      The new is powerful. The allure of youth, progress, new things, and new ideas pervade our culture. In architecture, it drives innovation that can move the vocabulary of architecture in new directions and creates stunning buildings. It also drives the waste of physical and cultural resources through the abandonment of old neighborhoods and the destruction of serviceable buildings. We believe that this part of the myth of the new is unethical and unnecessary. At the root of this belief is a cultural and pragmatic realization that everything ultimately is a transformation of something else. The thoughtful reuse, repositioning, and reframing of matter and space can be as profound as the pretense of inventing it.

    • Reuse and Sustainability

      The heritage preservation and sustainability movements are converging. Saving existing buildings to strengthen the cultural fabric and reduce waste is mutually beneficial. Old/new is a comprehensive approach that integrates the ethical issues of environmentally-conscious design and culturally conscious preservation with a commitment to high level solutions to our clients’ needs.

    • About the Author

      Thomas Meyer

      • Architect / Principal
      • thomas@msrdesign.com
      • 612 359 3222
      • View Bio