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Coming Back to Life – 10 Adaptive Reuse Projects done Right


Where were you when I was burned and broken?

While the days slipped by from my window watching

And where were you when I was hurt, and I was helpless?

This is what many run-down structures scream out to be transformed rather than fall prey to the demolition ball when they’re left abandoned.

It’s often difficult to imagine a building being used for something other than its original purpose. Adaptive reuse in architecture is the process of repurposing buildings that have outlived their original purposes for various reasons and adapting them to new uses or functions while preserving and emphasizing their historic features.

Adaptive reuse is the conscious decision to preserve the past while planning for the future as the world ages and more buildings with rich histories and architectural value find themselves in need of renovation and rejuvenation. As we began to feel the need for reusing existing structures and the numerous benefits offered by this orientation, government, and national and international associations began to take it into consideration. It is a great way to bring back to life an old building while conserving resources and historic value after it has become disused or abandoned. Adaptive reuse is becoming increasingly popular as a solution to some of the modern built environment’s problems, whether for environmental reasons, land availability, or the desire to preserve a historic landmark.

Let’s check out 10 Adaptive Reuse Projects that brought back defunct buildings/structures to life.

  1. War Bunker (Fort Vuren, Netherlands) – In 2014, the Belgian architectural firm B-ILD transformed a run-down war bunker into a small holiday home for two families to retreat to during their vacations in the beautiful Dutch town of Fort Vuren. As it is a part of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie, the project was part of an advertising campaign for Famous Office. 

The success of the refurbishment project led to it being permanently open for accommodation which was supported by the Dutch Commission for Monuments. The bunker has a small room with a surface area of 33 meters and a height of 1.8 meters, so the project could only accommodate the bare necessities, with inspiration from Le Corbusier’s ‘Le Cabanon’ project.

The architects also built an exterior deck with the same shape and surface area as the bunker’s interior, demonstrating how much space is lost due to the bunker’s thick concrete walls. Furthermore, the wooden planks are nearly identical to those used to form the concrete for the bunker, forming yet another link between the interior and exterior.

Since the principal room is both a bedroom and a living room, the furnishings are highly flexible and made of wood to bring a cozy tone inside. Everything is custom-made for the space and can be folded or slid to adapt to different needs.

  1. Gasometer City (Vienna, Austria) – Gasometer City in Vienna, Austria, is one of the most successful residential reuse projects. In the late 1990s, four massive disused gasometers were successfully revamped and have since become infamous in the adaptive reuse world. 

The Gigantic Coal Gasometers were constructed between 1896 and 1899 in Vienna’s Simmering district, near the Gaswerk Simmering gas works. The containers were used to help Vienna’s gas supply. The design was the largest in Europe at the time. Due to new technologies in gasometer construction and the city’s conversion from town gas and coal gas to natural gas, the gasometers were retired in 1984. They were declared protected historic landmarks in 1978.

The gas plant was then decided to be revitalized in 1995. The protected monuments in Vienna were remodeled and revitalized, and in 1995, a call for new uses for the structures was issued. Between 1999 and 2001, the chosen designs by architects Jean Nouvel (Gasometer A), Coop Himmelblau (Gasometer B), Manfred Wehdorn (Gasometer C), and Wilhelm Holzbauer (Gasometer D) were completed.

Each gasometer was divided into several zones for a living (top apartments), working (middle floors offices), and entertainment and shopping (lower floors) (shopping malls on the ground floors). Skybridges connect the different levels of each gasometer’s shopping mall.

The Gasometers have developed their village personality and are a city within a city. A true sense of community has formed, with both a large physical housing community (of tenants) and an active virtual internet community (Gasometer Community).

The gasometers have once harbored a set for James Bond: The Living Daylights.

  1. FRAC Dunkerque – FRAC Dunkerque, an independent regional arts center in northern France, has taken up residence in a former shipbuilding structure. The majestic space, known as FRAC Halle 2, has been converted into an art exhibition and storage space, with its large windows and cavernous scale, which has been compared to a cathedral. 

The architect team headed by Lacaton & Vassal proposed renovating the existing hall and constructing a twin adjacent to it to house FRAC’s exhibition and storage spaces. The existing ‘cathedral’ structure was left almost entirely untouched during the renovation, with the intention of using it for rotating large-scale exhibitions or public events. The more traditional fare would be housed in the adjacent twin building, with construction costs kept low by using prefabricated materials.

Since establishing their practice in Paris in 1987, Lacaton & Vassal has received the prestigious Pritzker Prize in recognition of outstanding new buildings and transformative social and cultural projects.

  1. Big Box (Providence, Rhode Island) – In the United States, there are over 580,000 homeless people. About a third of them do not have access to a bed.

The Research and Development studio of Los Angeles-based KTGY Architecture + Planning has proposed repurposing millions of square feet of empty retail stores as homeless housing. Bathrooms, dining, sleeping, gardening, and job training facilities are all part of the “Re-Habit” concept, which turns obsolete big-box stores into agents of social change.

The project transforms a big box store into a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use space with paths connecting multiple modes of transportation. The site is wedged between Amtrak rail tracks and Route 146 in Providence, Rhode Island, and is bisected by the Woonasquatucket River. People can enjoy the water by going down to the river. Stormwater runoff was diverted to on-site swales in a concerted effort to improve the river. The project minimizes greyfields and maximizes greenspace, with a focus on enhancing community by reconnecting the site with the Charles neighborhood. The structure, much of the roof, and the majority of the existing exterior walls are all reused.

The centers are built keeping the environment in mind, with rooftop gardens and energy-efficient photovoltaic facades.

  1. CaixaForum (Barcelona, Spain) – The redbrick building, which was built as a factory in 1911, is a fine example of Art Nouveau architecture. The restoration incorporates ultra-modern elements such as Japanese architect Arata Isozaki’s steel and glass entryway with the historic design. The CaixaForum is a key player in Barcelona’s cultural scene, with a dynamic roster of temporary exhibits, concerts, lectures, and cultural events. 

A project to design a courtyard with access to the main entrance was commissioned to Japanese architect Arata Isozaki as part of the restoration of the old Fábrica Casaramona as Centro Cultural de “La Fundació La Caixa.” It is located in the basement level and serves the public. The area that corresponds to the factory’s main hall has been transformed into a Fundació exposition hall, taking into account the original circumstances of the design. The basement was excavated in order to project the main entrance, auditorium, and media library, while keeping the facade almost as it is today.

  1. Jaffa Hotel (Tel Aviv, Israel) – The Tel Aviv Jaffa Hotel has been monumental labor of love for visionary designer John Pawson and architect and conservationist Ramy Gill. The historic School of the Sisterhood of Saint Joseph convent and adjacent 19th-century former French hospital in Jaffa were restored and renovated over a decade to become boutique accommodations and residences for the W Hotels brand. With scraped plastered walls revealing generations of patina, the final design combines classic architectural styles such as Arabic and neoclassical with contemporary elements, paying homage to the building’s historic beauty. But its most distinctive design feature was unexpected: Crews discovered an ancient courtyard and bastion wall dating from the 13th century Crusades during excavation; these relics are now a focal point in the museum.

The Jaffa, Israel’s first luxury hotel, is housed within the walls of a 19th-century complex that once housed the French Hospital of Jaffa. The Jaffa is a perfect blend of design, service, and state-of-the-art luxury, located just minutes from the beach and surrounded by the city’s most fashionable neighborhood.

The 19th-century landmark’s meticulously restored Roman architectural details blend seamlessly with Pawson’s signature minimalist aesthetic, delivering a new interpretation of luxury. The Chapel, meticulously restored from its days serving the Sisterhood of St. Joseph School, is arguably the most unique spot at The Jaffa. Recessed stained-glass windows, arched ceilings, and ornate plasterwork details grace this magnificent space. As the sun sets, the Chapel transforms into one of Tel Aviv’s most fashionable and exclusive nightlife destinations.

  1. Danish national Maritime Museum (Helsingør, Denmark) – Excellent use of Adaptive Re-use is also evidenced at the Danish National Maritime Museum. The museum is built in and around the harbor’s 60-year-old concrete dry dock walls, which were once used for shipbuilding and maintenance. The old dry dock’s 2.5m thick floor and 1.5m thick concrete walls were preserved as part of a quick response effort by cutting it open and reassembling it. Then a modern structure with new museum facilities is built.

The Danish Maritime Museum occupies a unique historic and spatial location, sandwiched between one of Denmark’s most important and well-known structures and a new ambitious cultural center. In this setting, the museum has demonstrated its grasp of the region’s personality. In a dry dock, it’s like a hidden museum. The galleries are placed below ground and arranged in a continuous loop around the dry dock walls, making the dock the exhibition’s centerpiece, an open outdoor area where visitors can experience the scale of shipbuilding.

Danish architecture studio BIG headed by Bjarke Ingels completed the project.

Within a two-story rectangular structure that encases the dry dock, the museum’s underground galleries tell the story of Denmark’s maritime history up to the present day.

The architect also points out that the dock allows the museum to be visible while not obstructing views of the adjacent Kronborg castle.

  1. Franz Kafka Society Center (Prague, Czech Republic) – Chief Architects Steven Holl Architects and Marcela Steinbachová (Skupina) completed the interior of the Franz Kafka Society Center. 

The small one-story building’s basement, which was once used for laundry and storage, now serves as a venue for exhibitions, lectures, and concerts, as well as Franz Kafka’s library. The Franz Kafka Society has offices on the first floor of the building. The building’s previously dark and desolate spaces have been flooded with light from newly installed windows and skylights that provide unexpected views of the Maisel Synagogue’s towers. These windows were purposefully placed off-axis to the interiors by Marcela Steinbachová (Skupina) and Steven Holl Architects. New visual connections inside the building, created by openings and inspection holes, give its small spaces depth, and create visual connections.

A 360-degree rotating shelf-lined door separates a room with black bookshelves from another with white ones in the center. The 172 square meter project is close to Old Town Square, which is in the heart of Prague’s former Jewish quarter.

  1. Tate Modern (London, UK) – The Tate Modern, a magnificent old oil-fired power station that now houses an international collection of contemporary art dating from 1900 onwards, reaches high into London’s skyline. It has surpassed the National Gallery and the British Museum as London’s most popular tourist attraction, as well as the world’s most popular modern art museum.

The original Bankside Power Station was built in two stages from 1947 to 1963, eventually turning off the pumps in 1981. It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed the Battersea Power Station and one of Britain’s other iconic symbols – the red telephone box.

The building was once under the watchful eye of developers eager to demolish it, but after impassioned pleas from campaigners to save it was heard, a competition for redevelopment was held, and Swedish architects Herzog and de Meuron won the battle to build London’s next big thing in 1995.

In January 1995, Herzog & de Meuron’s Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were announced as the winning architects. The £134 million transformations into the Tate Modern began in June 1995 and were completed in January 2000.

The gallery opened to widespread praise in 2000 and has since received over 30 million visitors. Its success is due in part to its location on the banks of the Thames, but it is also due to the building’s use of space. The main Turbine Hall, a massive 3,400 square meter space that once housed the main electricity generators, was thankfully preserved in its original form, providing a vast gallery for art installations that frequently require public interaction and appreciation of the space. This space, and its ability to be successfully transformed time and again, has changed people’s perceptions of art, which is no doubt much more than the architects hoped for with their redesign.

  1. Battersea Power Station (London UK) – Battersea Power Station, easily one of London’s most recognizable landmarks on the banks of the River Thames, has been abandoned for decades. For a variety of reasons, such as the old power station just around the bend of the river – the Tate Modern – there have been calls to demolish the dilapidated structure. Some claimed that redeveloping it would be too expensive due to its size, while others claimed that the elements had improved it so much over the years that it had become relatively unsound.

After numerous failed attempts to revitalize the building and surrounding area, plans for one of the largest redevelopments the London south bank has yet to see are in the works, and they certainly look impressive.

The £9 billion project will see the development of a vibrant, mixed-use development, a new neighborhood and business quarter for London, served by a Zone 1 extension of the London Underground Northern Line, and the restoration of a Grade II listed Power Station.

The overall project is divided into eight phases, each designed by a different group of specialists. SimpsonHaugh and Partners and De Rijke Marsh Morgan (dRMM) in Circus West Village, WilkinsonEyre in Battersea Power Station, and Foster + Partners and Gehry Partners in The Electric Boulevard, Battersea Roof Gardens, and Prospect Place are among those involved.

Circus West Village, the first phase of the development, opened in 2017 and now has over 1,800 residents as well as an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, and leisure facilities, including a cinema and theatre.

The Power Station, the second phase, will be open to the public. This truly mixed-use structure will house Apple’s London Campus, hundreds of new shops in the historic turbine halls, a c.2000 capacity event venue, an 18,500 sq ft food hall, a glass chimney lift, and hundreds of new homes.

When the development is finished, 25,000 people will live and work here, making it one of London’s largest office, retail, leisure, and cultural quarters. A new 24/7 community will be formed across the 42-acre site, with over 250 shops, cafes, and restaurants, a theatre, hotel, medical center, and 19 acres of public space, including 450 meters of river frontage and a six-acre public park. The Battersea Power Station will be a new office district with over 3 million square feet of commercial space, as well as new private and affordable housing.

Adaptive reuse can take many forms, from preserving heritage to repurposing vacant buildings to revitalizing communities.

Building longevity is a sustainable strategy with both social and financial benefits. Adaptive reuse saves historic places while transforming vacant buildings into new homes, offices, and hotels that make financial and environmental sense.

INDOVANCE Inc with its exclusive delivery hub in India is a global CAD technology partner serving the needs of the AEC industry since 2003. At INDOVANCE we focus on the unique need of each project or client and believe in addressing the real challenges and guarantee that the process will be well-coordinated, smooth, efficient, and hassle-free.

We collaborate with our customers around the world to develop bespoke business solutions using our enormous engineering talent pool and state-of-the-art technology. To deliver long-term engineering and business strategies, we align with your culture and processes to create an unbreakable partnership. With over 300 full-time employees and more than 600 customers in the US, Europe, India, and Asia, we are poised for the next level of success.

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