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Adaptability and the Role It Plays // Michael Twitchel


The author and his daughter.

Abstract: Adaptability is the key factor in which things last through the years, how they stay relevant. Adaptability is not only for Architecture, it can be seen in all aspects and has always been important throughout all of time. If you cannot adapt then you become irrelevant or obsolete.


Audience: The target audience are the future clients that plan to have a building designed. The owner/clients need to know that flexible spaces are the key to longevity so any and all buildings can adapt to a new function.

"Adaptability and the Role It Plays"


Adaptability is a quality that everyone should have. Granted, it’s not just something that you ­can go out and buy or take with you anywhere. Adaptability is something that you have to work towards, something that doesn’t just show up one day.  Adaptable Architecture is a very important design feature, everything having two purposes. Architecture is not the only thing that needs adaptability but life in general needs it. Things come up every day that we had no idea that was coming, but we take them head on and adapt to the situation at hand. We can never see what is coming, but that doesn’t mean we can’t run full steam ahead. Just, when a junction comes into our path we need to be ready and not shy away from the problem and make the best out of any situation.


Several students in our class took and are taking on probably one of the most adaptive situations that life can give us. It affects us both in our lives outside of Architecture and it affects those of us inside the realm of Architecture. Our children are always our greatest achievement, and is generally the greatest change in our lives. There is nothing more changing in my life then the birth of my daughter, before the beginning of this school year. My time in the Marines changed me, but nothing like the adapting that I’ve made this year. Others have had children and had new ones this year. Others are just beginning this journey later this year and it too will change them, make them adapt to the new responsibilities. There is one thing that I can say for certain, is that it will change us for the rest of our lives. These changes might not be immediate but they will certainly change every part of us. From how we act, to our priorities, all the way down to how we treat our designs. This life experience has taught us to adapt. We can translate this into our Architecture, and it can only make our designs better.


We as designers need to reach out to our clients and try to make them understand that the building they may want is and will change over time. Nothing is ever set in stone, nothing is never the exact same day after day. We, the designers, need to facilitate to our clients that the flexibility and adaptability over time brings the greatest asset to any design. More than a high quality façade, or amazing material usage, the longevity of a building can and is the most valuable asset that anyone owner or client can hope for. Twenty or thirty years down the road after a building is completed, there is no reason to just tear it down and build anew. We must see in the future as best we can to bring a next level of flexibility to all the spaces we design. We have to convince our clients that this is in their best interest. Some of the greatest buildings in history are still here because their designs are flexible and not so specific that the original reason makes them unusable in other contexts. The Pantheon of Rome is still used today and has been active over the last two millennia. Originally a Roman temple, it is now a Christian church, this building was used to bury king, and is one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world. Another instance of longevity is the Hagia Sophia of Turkey. This building originally designed as a Christian church, turned Islamic mosque, and now it has become a museum. These two buildings have been changed, been reused, and adapted to fit the need of the people. We need to take a que from history and make our buildings in the flexible image that are these two buildings.

(left) The Pantheon in Rome and (right) Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Nothing we can design can ever be made perfect, perfect in the sense that it will not exactly match what was drawn. It the quick thinking and the adapting of the reality that makes the building come together. There are always going to be small nuances that cause something to be off and adaption is needed because it changes five things, and now something major is wrong. This is up to the Architect and the contractor, sure the contractor can apply a quick on the site fix. No one may know the wiser, but both the designer and builder have to be aware that these are very integral parts of the building process. We the designers, have to be ready to fix any discrepancies and vice versa with the contractors. We have to adapt but we cannot just blindly fix one thing to lead it into more problems that need be addressed. We have already encountered problems in the drawings that are wrong or off, but these things haven’t slowed us down. We were ready to address things that were wrong, we have taken the change head on and it has not slowed us down. Every project will have it issues but the quick thinking and teamwork makes it easier and more efficient without skipping a beat.


Adaptability is probably the single most useful tool to have in life. With an ever changing world, we need to be ready and not afraid of what is to come. These things are still going to happen whether we like them or not, we just need to make sure we can overcome the challenges. We need use adaptability for life, for work, big and small. No day is the same and nothing is ever perfect, as long as we know that we can plan and prep to make this easier for everyone from top to bottom. Bad things roll down hill, and if we can mitigate it with planning and adaptability then we can make anything and achieve anything.

Written by Michael Twitchel

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