I am absolutely fascinated and mystified by ruins. Nothing expresses the passage of time better than an abandoned building. A building is very much a living thing. It needs its internal systems, such as plumbing, mechanical, etc., to be maintained. The facade will occasionally need cleaning, repairs, or a new coat of paint. The security of occupants prevents vandalism. Like all living things, a building that is neglected will deteriorate over time. The deterioration process can be seen as a series of layers. It might take years for an abandoned building to appear unoccupied, but eventually nature and vandals make themselves apparent.

Broken windows, peeling paint, dingy facades, and graffiti. Those are not included in the design of a building when an architect plans it. As a student, I never think about how my projects would fall apart some day if they were to be built. There is so much energy and effort put into the design and construction of a building, that it seems inconceivable that some day this building will become deserted and slowly crumble. This is particularly true for such a grand structure as Michigan Station. Historically, we understand why the need for a train station here sharply declined, but I still think it is very sad that this once vibrant transportation hub is a ruin.

As I said, I am very fascinated by ruins, but in a way one might be fascinated by ghosts. They are pieces of the past that are stuck here, unable to be used, but still standing. This is why I’m interested in preservation and adaptive reuse. It seems to me like the best way to be sustainable is to revive or preserve these solid structures that already stand, particularly if they are of historic or architectural significance.

Photos: Eric Smith Photography, http://www.ericsmith.us/

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