Perfect Imperfection: Finding Beauty in the Broken

Simon Pitcaithly

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Wood Brothers' Distillery Proposal

While societal messages can encourage an unhealthy strive for perfection, the notion of embracing individual flaws and openly displaying vulnerabilities can appear foreign and outlandish. However, when fallibility is acknowledged and imperfection embraced, intimate relationships built on foundations of trust and understanding can be established. In an architectural context, similar deep-rooted connections can be formed between a people and a place when a building is allowed to age with blemishes laid bare for all to see. An architectural work can exhibit a sense of ‘humanising vulnerability’ where its bruises and scars are able to visually communicate its historical and contextual narrative. 

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Conceptual Drivers

This thesis explores the notion of designing to capitalise on past decay through revitalisation of the former Wood Brother’s Flour Mill in Addington, Christchurch (1891). Known as one of the city’s last great industrial buildings, the structure remains hugely impressive due to its sheer size and scale despite being subject to earthquake damage, abandonment and vandalism for a number of years.

East Elevation Proposed Interventions
Woods Mill Distillery Renders
Revitalisation of Wood's Mill

In offering a challenge to renovation and reconstruction as a means of conservation, this thesis asks if ‘doing less’ has the potential to ‘do more’. How can an understanding of architecture as an ongoing process inform a design approach to celebrate ageing and patina? Research into the traditional Japanese ideology of wabi-sabi and its practical applications form the basis for a regenerative design approach which finds value in imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness. 

North Elevation Proposed Interventions
Luttrell Brothers Courtyard
Revitalisation of the Luttrell Brothers' Addition

This thesis shows that adaptive reuse projects can benefit from an active collaboration with the processes of decay. Instead of a mindset where an architectural work is considered the finished article upon completion of construction, a sensitive design philosophy is employed in which careful thought is given to the continued preservation and evolution of a structure with the recognition that evidence of past wear, tear, patina and weathering can all contribute positively to a building’s future. 

South Elevation Proposed Interventions
Flour And Grain Store And Link Building Revitalisation Proposals 2
Revitalisation of the Flour and Grain Store and Link Building
West Elevation Proposed Interventions