ICON, Spring 2005
As we continue to build, one wonders how often, if ever, we contemplate the future of our edifices should they endure beyond the client or function for which they were designed. Will they remain relevant parts of a given landscape despite changes in demographics or societal needs? Are they sufficiently malleable so as to secure place in future redevelopment? Finding a practical, if not altogether innovative adaptive reuse scheme for an extraordinary building of a bygone era is a challenge WM F and others in the international preservation community face on a daily basis. Saving a structure is one thing, putting it back into service is quite another, particularly if a building's size or internal organization place constraints on its reuse. This issue, we highlight the plight of the Real Albergo dei Poveri, an extraordinary, albeit enormous, mid-eighteenth-century almshouse in the heart of downtown Naples.
Despite an investment of more than €400 million to date, which has gone primarily for structural stabilization, it has been all but impossible to unify the Albergo's interior spaces as the building was designed on a radial plan to limit the social interaction between the impoverished tenants for whom it was constructed. Nevertheless, this magnificent building has the potential to be an architectural focal point for the south Italian city, if only the Bourbon marvel can find a worthy purpose. Elsewhere in the issue, we explore the very process of renewal and the need for craftsmanship to restore our most treasured sites. So many sites in WMF's portfolio require specialized artisanal skills or building techniques that are now in danger of becoming lost arts as, one by one, their last practitioners fade into history. To address an ongoing need for master artisans and builders, WM F has made training the next generation of craftsmen a top priority.