Can we please stop calling multiple-use buildings mixed-use?

Can we please stop calling multiple-use buildings mixed-use?

Usually I don’t show a lot of self control when it comes to buying books about topics of which I think I’m interested in. I’ll happily spend $50 on Abebooks just on the back of a title, and I’m near helpless when it comes to the good ole bookstores.

The other day I made an exception though. At the NAi Booksellers in the Architecture Museum of Rotterdam I was flipping though a book with the promising title This is Hybrid. An Analysis of Mixed-Use Building. I find the idea of mixed-use buildings quite fascinating, as these can be a microcosmos of the city, being buildings in which urban ingredients are brought together to cook up something new. 

Here is a spread of the book, which is fairly exemplary for its content: 


My main problem with this book is about the title. Hybrid suggest something new as a result of a mixture of ingredients. For the skyscraper dictionary I already included “mixed use” for the sole purpose of getting across how the term is often misused.

Pretty much all examples in this book deal with well known multiple-use buildings. This is reflected by the absence of photo’s or ideas of the shared spaces and amenities that are the result of a combination of these usages. It merely list the starchitect projects through their location, a profile image and a cross-section scheme in which different colors represent different usages, all from an architectural point of view.

The featured image above illustrates this issue. What you see are the ingredients of beer. Not beer itself. You can toss these ingredients in a cooking pot and nothing will happen if you don’t force them to work together to become beer. Next to knowing how to make beer, it also depends on the type and quality of the ingredients in order to get to good stuff. 

This is an issue that happens all the time in skyscraper land. Local hero De Rotterdam happily brands itself as a vertical city, while really what it is, is stacked usages on former docklands. 

Your best bet for real mixed-use building are large, professionally managed residential buildings populated by people with a sharing mentality, such as student housing. While in Rotterdam, the recently completed Student Hotel offers all kind of shared spaces and amenities that much more qualify as a hybrid between users and usages, and the building and its surrounding city, then some of those starchitect projects, where stacked multiple usage doesn’t really produce anything new. 

I understand this is just my response on this book and as such not a real review. You might like it just as anything and you’re invited to check it out. But yes, I decided to leave this book for the reason stated above, and save myself worth about eight pints of beer. 

This is Hybrid
An analysis of mixed-use buildings

author » a+t research group
year » 2014
pages » 312 pages
publisher » a + t architecture publishers

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