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There are a variety of resources available to learn about behavior sciences and architectural theories. Many of the studies focus on reaction to design, aesthetics, social interaction and social organization as a result of the built environment. When referring to the built environment I am generally speaking about buildings and landscapes. With reference to the term 'environment' alone, I am referring to a much broader context, one that involves the physical, social and psychological dimensions of our surrounding. Surprisingly, there is little investigation on how the reuse of the built environment can influence social attitude, a topic associated with the study of social psychology a part of behavioral sciences. Attitude is a major research area within social psychology; attitudes are usually directed toward existing objects (e.g., issues, people, and structures). The field of architecture closely relates to social psychology. It is important for architects and other professionals to understand how reuse of a facility may have a strong presence in the development of human attitude, and how attitudes change with interaction of the built environment. It is equally important to understand the affect of social attitude on the business entity, which is funding or using the project. The current studies of behavior sciences and architecture provide little insight to this topic but instead focus on the interactions to design or the design process.
Attitude change caused by adaptive reuse may have many outcomes. The reuse of industrial buildings may have an impact on the perception of the auto industry, the community in which it exists and a deeper impact on the 'environment'. Detroit, Michigan is an area rich with historical data on the rise and fall of industrialism in urban areas with an emphasis on the auto industry. Historical research is important to understand the social impact of industrial buildings that have been abandoned. It is my belief that many of the industrial buildings the auto industry abandoned can be adapted for new use as research and design facilities, educational centers with tourism or training facilities that retool workers with new sustainable technology driving the future. My questions on the social impact of adaptive reuse require a deeper understanding of the architecture, environment and sciences. Can the practice of sustainable, adaptive reuse of industrial building potentially alter the social and organizational complexity of a company then the outcomes should be known so that they are more openly embraced by corporations, governments and private owners as a more favorable means of architecture. An important aspect to consider is whether there is a correlation between historical preservation and a generalized perception of a brand image in people's minds. Research uncovered with the auto industry could reflect the transferability of this theory into mainstream acceptance.
The research of social phenomenon regarding adaptive reuse of industrial structures deals with a range of complex subject matter. I have found that there are numerous publications and sources of information to research historical data on abandoned structures. Many sources in the literature emphasis that sprawl and its effects are a contributing factor. The effects of sprawl are both physical and abstract. Burchell, Downs, McCann & Mukherji (2005) and Chavan, Peralta & Steins (2007) are authors which have written about sprawl and complex issues that building owners, communities, architects and developers might experience during an adaptive use development project. Burchell "et al." talks about the different "Cost" of sprawl, defining cost as an impact on resource conservation, planned growth, economic growth and market sense. Chavan "et al." look at a range of topics that struggling urban cities face in the pursuit of land use, planning and urban design. Both pieces of literature acknowledge that sprawl has an effect on the sense of place, but they don't discuss specifics of industrial architecture beyond the ideas that sustainable, adaptive reuse is a form of preservation or vague ideas about its contribution to the growth of 'community'. The literature regarding sprawl I reviewed did not mention social attitude or social change in relation to the business entities that pursued adaptive reuse. This is a weakness that shouldn't be overlooked. Adaptive reuse may help grow the community is ways but unless the primary stakeholders realize potential in the developments for there businesses they will be less inclined to pursue it as an option.
The concepts that form sprawl and the historic backgrounds of industrial structures do add value to the research, but equally if not more important is the literature involved in the research of behavioral sciences. Much of the existing research in behavioral sciences about architecture relates to the individual rather the masses, or at times it references group patterns that evolve from specific architecture (e.g., plazas, physical design, and parks). In sociology, however "there has been very little consideration of the built environment as a component in group process" (Lang, 1987 p.21). To understand how the physical environment affects behavior sciences dealing with adaptive reuse of industrial automotive facilities both industrial structures and their history are necessary to understand the social history and 'spirit-of-place' engaged with industrial structures and ownership. The literature involved in the proposed research seems divided by invisible boundaries. In reductionist fashion, each of the areas mentioned have been studied separate in some degree. I feel we need to break down the barriers and form a connection between them. When reviewed, the whole is greater than the sum of its sum parts. This concept is widely associated with the Gestalt Laws. "Because architecture is a composition of all the human senses, achieving a true design balance is a simple, yet complex, endeavor" (Lorena, 2008). By adopting laws like the Gestalt Principles into our architecture, it becomes more successful and creates a more balanced harmony with greater acceptance. Unfortunately, some architects seem more interested in a visually stimulating design rather than a mentally stimulating design that affects our 'environment'. Another theory that works with architecture is the transactional theory of perception. In short, the transactional theory can be described as a theory that puts a great deal of emphasizes on the role of experience in perception. It focuses on the active relationship between person and environment. "Perception is considered to be a transaction in which the environment, the observer, and the perception are mutually dependant on each other" (Lang, 1987 p.89). With this in mind social values, especially those of social groups in my opinion can be influenced by architecture that utilizes reuse. The perception of sustainable, adaptive reuse should be a consideration of any business entity. The literatures suggest architecture has an ability to stimulate every human sense; the experience of architecture has a lasting impression on our perception.
Our environment affects us. Knowing the environment is social, psychological and physical it also defines us. We can start healing places and their image with sustainable practices. By embracing change through adaptive reuse social attitudes will change. The question is how, and will the change be positive? The 'spirit of place' is a term Christopher Day has said "refers to certain memories, beliefs & history of a place." Places hold memories and evoke feelings and attitudes. "Spirit of place feeds, and is feed by, attitude and actions of those who administer, build, maintain and use it" (Day, 2003 p.7). There are broad philosophical discussions on the idea of what is a 'place.' Day (2003) in his book describes how our moods are induced by our surrounding, if matched to circumstance, can nourish, balance and heal. He uses the term to represent a state of renewal, balance and development. He goes on to say, that places speak subliminal messages, and life demands change. Architectural development is a part of change, but it doesn't have to be destructive. It can be a source of life and re-vitalize sore areas like abandoned industrial developments. I believe we can give new life to places with declining industries such as Detroit through adaptive reuse. "Brand new places have no spirit" (Day, 2003). Adaptive use of architectural structures purpose isn't to create new places, but rather to conform to change and benefit the people that experience them and improve their 'spirit of place'. I feel cities and organizations are shaped by perceived thoughts as all of our surroundings are. By gaining a better understanding of social factors that create a positive or negative attitude toward the spirit of place thoughts of adaptability and preservation of buildings can be evaluated and learned. Thus, adding to the strength of architecture as a profession to help our clients.
Our transition to a postindustrial society through conservation and regeneration of existing structures will help to preserve the 'spirit of place' but, not all buildings can be converted for new uses. There are variable factors to consider as there are in all project feasibility studies. The Urban Land Institute published a book "Adaptive Use" that reviews the development process, economics and feasibility of most adaptive reuse projects. They categorize four basic steps to all adaptive reuse projects, project initiation, project feasibility, project planning and financing, explaining each step has specific issues and considerations that need to be addressed (Martin, 1978). The principals of the development process are still the same in my opinion today yet we still don't know the impact of the developments from a scientific perspective relating to social sciences even today. In more detail Stratton (2000) talks about the issues with industrial buildings specifically and how the appeal of heritage may affect the project outcome. Mallach (2006) then discusses different measures that can be taken to control and foster sustainable reuse of abandoned properties. He believes the fundamental condition for an effective strategy is a solid framework of cooperation between all the parties involved in the acquisition, disposition, and reuse of properties. The process is complex and takes cooperation from multiple parties during stages of the development. Although, many of the preventative reasons for adaptive reuse involve cost as a variable controlled by stakeholders.. At times this cost is considered to high to proceed with the project. However, companies with a solid business model may be willing to pay higher upfront cost to develop a stronger brand and image of quality. Can adaptive reuse contribute to a stronger image? Are some strengths of adaptive reuse simply over looked?
The American attitude towards heritage has been an important influence in the perceptions and policy decisions about what sites are significant to preserve. While the public may have a voice on which sites to preserve through organizations they have almost no voice in determining which sites are left abandoned. I've found this is typical in the literature, but less common is the concept of businesses reusing their own dilapidated property sites.
There are certainly examples of companies that rank high in what is known as 'corporate social responsibility' that have done well and examples of companies that have done poorly. There is however places that you can experience adaptive reuse of industrial facilities to investigate a phenomenon or setting. Included are facilities now adapted by Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Tesla Motors and industry suppliers to name a few. These examples can provide value to the research through combined strategies following a naturalistic approach to the subject matter. There would need to be extensive research on these facilities before there could be any measurement of data. For instance, a researcher might choose to conduct surveys, interviews or simply observe and report. I believe each contributes something to the focus of the research topic. Companies like Ford and General Motors have made adaptive reuse as part of their business plans. How affective has the lure of sustainable, adaptive reuse been at changing public attitude of both the area and the company is unclear due to a lack of research. Two examples of the built environment that people can relate to using industrial reuse by automotive manufacturers are; the E-Flex Design Center by General Motors and the Rouge River Factory with Ford Motor Company. The E-Flex Design Center was built within the existing GM Advanced Design Center. The new E-flex studio was once an auditorium. The new studio is an example of adaptive reuse of an existing facility that uses new technologies and sustainable architectural practices. The E-Flex studio has earned General Motors recognition in the news. The Ford Rouge Plant is also an example of adaptive reuse. Ford considers it a model of sustainable manufacturing, an inspiring design that combines future technology while still maintaining the historical significance of the past. But, I feel it was an attempt at rebranding its image and about changing the perception of the company. After some fatal accidents at the site Ford decided to use the facility to represent a change of policy in the company in terms of sustainability and safety. A company's perceived brand is based on what consumers or users think about the company (Franzen and Moriarty, 2009). I believe sustainable architecture can influence what people perceive about a company based on these principles. If architects and their clients learn to integrate adaptive reuse into the social balance we can bring about change. Projects are developed for many reasons most seem to be concerned with earning a profit by appealing to an array of audiences in different ways. When we consider a new design for well known brand or place that has a strong heritage adaptive reuse can be powerful tool for maintaining or rebranding an image and perception.
Science has a role in architecture and in sustainable adaptive reuse of industrial buildings. The technologies that advance architecture influence the perception in our environment. The perception of architecture can be manipulated as a marking tool for either brand image to promote a company or promote a city or place. Perhaps with further study into this research it can be proven that adaptive reuse of post-industrial buildings can repair the image of urban cities like Detroit, Michigan or heal perceptions of industries and advance organizations. If this is true the particulates of circumstance and setting can be negated and seen with far greater reaching applications. The use of adaptability in architecture could translate as an attribute of strength. The literatures as a whole then suggest that adaptability has the potential to create satisfaction and positively influence social attitude. As an architect interested in adaptive reuse I choose to develop my theory based on industrial structures surrounding the auto industry. The more we learn about the affects of behavior sciences on architecture as it relates to brand image and the perception of organizations and spirit of place; we may look more at adaptive reuse as an influential tool of social attitude and change. It is my belief that future generations should design buildings with adaptability in mind. Designers should think about uses for the built environment beyond a single use and design structures that can adapt. It isn't possible to build the future without seeing the past, adaptive reuse has certain qualities you can't build from the ground up in the tradition sense. The memory of demolitions on the other hand might leave a negative image associated with decline and destruction that erases the 'spirit of place' and causes a negative social reaction.