New into Old: Building Palimpsest in Fabric-ation

What is the fate of an old building that fails to stand in the passing of time? Abandoned? Forgotten? Ruined? My thesis is driven by my own fascination with the relationship between new and old in architectural conservation. "New into Old" not only refers to the impact by everchanging environment to old buildings, but also leads to the forward-looking space intervention based on the historical context to extend the economic and cultural life of abandoned heritage in a positive manner.

To define a building that is "old", it must have undergone a series of human and constructional activities that left traces and marks on building over time, which is analogous to the semantics of “palimpsest”. The process of rewriting with new marks that overlapped the instinct old marks creates a vertical depth through layers of traces in the transformation of a building. Palimpsest, in this case, is a metaphor as the narrative of new and old to shed light on adaptive reuse of an old building.

The city Winnipeg is a palimpsest with harmonious integration of early 20th century brutalism blocks and contemporary skyscrapers with Main Street as an exemplary precedent of "new into old". It also witnesses the rise and fall of Mitchell Fabrics for more than 70 years, which was once the staple of fabric industry in Western Canada. Due to aging management and receded trade, it dropped the final curtain last year but left us with its own creation of building palimpsest that glass panel storefront coexisted with exquisite Tyndall stone and brick details on the façade of Bon Accord Block. The interweaving link between fabric & layer, textile &trace beneath its dilapidated interiors somehow reveals itself with potential to recreate and reborn.

With consideration of current neighbourhood conditions and past historical background of the site, my design thesis would explore the rich story behind the Mitchell Fabrics, to rethink boundary and balance of new into old in revitalization of abandoned building. Through the interpretation of palimpsest to rebuild and transform it into a beacon that would carry on our local memory and bring back the prosperity of the Main Street neighborhood in a new era.