Charles Bloszies: Fusing New With Old

Charles Bloszies’ epiphany arrived in 2004 on the wings of a Lamborghini languishing in a Florentine piazza.

“It gave me an enlightened, enhanced appreciation,” he says.  “It was an inspirational moment – I realized that the contrast of a new building of its time with an old building of its time could yield exciting results.”

He hasn’t looked back since.

Earlier this month, Princeton Architectural Press published a slim volume on the topic, called “Old Buildings, New Designs,” with an introduction from Hugh Hardy.

“Charles Bloszies has put together an incisive and broad investigation of nineteen projects from all over the world that show thoughtful ways in which new buildings draw their importance from their relationship to old,” Hardy writes.

The book features built works by an international list of renowned architects, including Daniel Libeskind, Renzo Piano, Foster + Partners and Herzog & de Meuron.

“It’s an uncovered genre of buildings,” Bloszies says.  “I looked around at fusion projects, both new and old – not new buildings put up next door, or infill, but fused onto existing buildings, so that the aggregate functions as one.”

With smart growth and increased density in a city’s urban core, there’s often no place to build except on top of existing structures.  And when preservation groups ratchet up political pressure to deny demolition, the grafting of new onto old begins to make even more sense.

Bloszies’ 19 case studies are the result of a thorough search through the virtual universe for the best of their kind.  “They’re undiscovered and unpublished,” he says.  “And they’re a combination of buildings that are all different scales and sizes.”

It comes as no surprise that the San Francisco-based author is both an architect and a structural engineer.  Or that he worked at Keast & Hood, the Philadelphia engineering firm that executed much of Louis Kahn’s work.  Or further, that he attended the University of Pennsylvania at the end of Kahn’s era there.

“The aura of his years there still hung in the air,” he says.

And throughout the pages of his new book as well.

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