The Granary / Interface Studio Architects


A conceptual proposal for the retrofit of an old grain silo in Center City Philadelphia, Interface Studio Architects aims to integrate an existing, vacant structure into an urban, mixed-use project. Additionally, it raises interesting questions about old building reuse and innovative tactics for sustainability. More images and architects’ description after the break.

© Interface Studio Architects

The Granary’s specific and robust silo structure makes the conversion to residential or commercial space impossible for at least half the building. However, an engineering analysis revealed that the existing structure can accept a significant overbuild with only minor reinforcements. Our proposal occupies the first floor with retail and restaurant uses while adding dozens of apartment over top across 14 floors.

silo climbing wall / © Interface Studio Architects

The former grain silos have significant potential as environmental filters. Their massiveness allows them to serve as effective pre-heat or pre-cool chambers, maintaining relatively constant temperatures in the winter and summer. They could also function as stormwater cisterns, collecting and filtering rainwater and grey water for on-site irrigation. In addition, the silos also have cultural potential. They are envisioned as being transformed into micro-galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions and events, small-scale hydroponic farms, and mini sporting venues, among many other possibilities. These cultural programs could be tied in with nearby institutions and businesses, further activating neighborhood cultural networks.

silo farm / © Interface Studio Architects

We see the building’s ability to receive a new program as a major opportunity. We are attracted to the notion that a difficult-to-reuse, defunct industrial building can be repurposed in unexpected ways. We argue against preserving such structures as museum pieces, instead promoting a strategy of reinvigoration that capitalizes on the value of an historic building’s original construction building plus a 14 story overbuild component.

Architect: Interface Studio Architects
Location: Philadelphia, , United States
Date: 2010
Project Phase: Concept design
Major funding: Private development
Area: 100,000sf

Cite: Furuto, Alison. "The Granary / Interface Studio Architects" 11 Jun 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Daniel

    I’m glad to see a bit of restraint shown here by choosing to use the existing silos as a plinth instead of trying to cram living space where it can’t fit. There are some student dorms in Oslo built from repurposed silos. And while the idea is novel, the circular rooms are pretty uncomfortable and impossible to furnish.

  • John Rizor

    Daniel brings some excellent points to light regarding the re-use of the existing silos. While there are many instances of extremely successful repurpose/rehabilitation projects utilizing existing structures, there are equally as many poor interventions. Re-purposing an existing building is pointless and, at times, harmful if it doesn’t perform from a functional standpoint (especially in the case of a residential development). I think Interface has nailed this project right on the head — use whatever existing infrastructure you can, but don’t force a square peg into a round hole. The diagrams are particularly helpful in this article and lend insight to the schematic development of the project. My only skepticism regarding the project would be the layout of the flats…I’d like to see a floor plan of an individual unit to see how the units are organized. Great project!

  • Sivad Bop

    Welp, community resistance (to everything anywhere) and press criticism (by Inga Saffron, who subsequently criticized the eventual alternative building as “bland”) strangled this project out of the gate. Philadelphia, you take no risks, you get the worst, you get what you deserve.