Obsolescence and Renewal: Transformation of Post War Concrete Buildings

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In this thesis I investigate issues of post-war concrete buildings and how we can both add value and make adaptable what we have traditionally defined as not valuable and not adaptable. 55% of United States’ commercial building stock was built between the years of 1960 and 1980, leaving 36 billion square feet of building material to be adaptively reused or at the bottom of a landfill. Currently, our culture does not value many character defining features of these buildings making the preservation of these buildings difficult, especially at this 50 year critical moment of both the attribution of a “historic” status and time when major renovation of these buildings needs to occur. How can architects add value to a building type, sometimes called “brutalist”, that building culture currently under values and thinks is “obsolete”? I tested this hypothesis using the James Forrestal Building in Washington D.C. After close study of the obsolescence, value,history and existing conditions, I propose a design that adds value to Southwest Washington D.C. and may serve as an example for post-war renewal around the country.