Meaning Through Use: Adaptive Reuse of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

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The intersection of urban and natural in addition to old and new in Georgetown allows a unique opportunity to explore how people today find meaning in these features. Adaptive reuse and the re-creation of experiences, as opposed to museum style preservation, are becoming integral components of an Historic Preservation continuum. Interacting with the past creates a living history.

This project strengthens the connection between the neighborhood and its history. The Genealogy Library and Archive places an importance on individual contributions to the history of Georgetown and provides a venue for the current population to discover this significance. The patrons can also access other genealogical centers and ascertain their "sense of place" within their own particular family history.

The landscape program along the canal as well as the building's bond with the urban fabric invites the people who work and live in Georgetown to use it as an alternative route to M Street. The centerpiece to the design is the urban plaza at the intersection of M Street and Wisconsin with a terraced café and series of ramps cascading towards the canal. The interpretive elements further nurture an understanding of Georgetown's early reliance on the canal and create a unique node in the city.

Placing a new value on the C & O canal and engaging it in everyday life creates a stronger sense of place. The history of the site will not be relegated to the one time museum visit but will gain meaning through constant use.