The dawn of the Anthropocene has thrown the idea of adaptive reuse into the limelight: effectively the pinnacle of urban regeneration and revitalization. It utilizes the presence of existing buildings with historic and cultural value and re-purposes them to be functional. Essentially a form of architectural salvage; a sustainable and viable means of rebuilding.
Recent events such as the pandemic has highlighted inequalities in our cityscape, the inadequate segments in a state of disuse and disrepair. Adaptive reuse can replenish these areas and create new cultural hotspots, encouraging activity and creating vibrant and healthy mixed-use environments.
Below is a diverse selection of cultural hotspots using Adaptive Reuse
Wagenhallen Stuttgart Cultural Center / Atelier Bruckner
This award winning cultural center was previously a series of locomotive sheds built during the late 1800’s. Today it acts as an important cultural venue offering a concert and event space. The essence and skeleton of the original building remains, whilst features such as the windows have been replaced as required. The vast spaces offered by its original construction, provide excellent acoustics and flexibility in terms of usage.
It has repurposed the potential the original structure had to offer and has activated this disused segment into a bustling hive of activity. The façade appears as if to be a rich historic tapestry, displaying a range of different brickwork from different time periods. Almost a subject of demolition this salvage project has proved to be a huge success, housing Stuttgart’s creative scene and maintaining its historic character.
Medieval Mile Museum / McCullough Mulvin Architects
As a medieval church rediscovered as a museum, this particular project establishes the importance of conserving elements of architecture with historic value, yet it provides it with a new purpose relevant to present day needs. A wonderful example of the past and present intertwining to create an immersive and engaging exhibition space. Creating new and exciting opportunities out of the debilitated.
Original features such as the 13th century chancel and aisle have been reconstructed with lead in order to extend the museum space. These reconstructions have been based upon original foundations, which have since disappeared over time. The interior acts as a well lit, vast exhibition space housing some very beautiful remnants of Ireland's medieval past. Once a place of ruins, it is now a popular location with both locals and tourists.
Atelier Gardens / MVRDV
An ongoing transformation through methods of adaptive reuse includes MVRDV’s revitalization of the Berliner Union Film Ateliers (BUFA) film and television studios in Berlin. Due to its historic nature the original studios prove to be outdated and pose no benefit in regards to the realms energy. The proposal seeks to transform the site into both a bio-diverse and thriving campus environment, offering a range of office and studio amenities.
In regards to part of the studios revitalization, minimal alterations are to be made as a nod to more sustainable methods of rebuilding – essentially not rebuilding at all to lengthen the life of the original structure. However, beneficial additions including a plant-clad wooden frame, offering insulation and the implementation of biophilic components such as gardens, will offer a more sustainable vision for the future of this once thriving environment.
Perrotin Gallery / Peterson Rich Office
Originally the Beckenstein building (1890) in the Lower East Side, this particular adaptive reuse project has evolved a great deal over the years, emphasizing how the technique allows for the reinvention of architecture time and time again. Today it is the Perrotin Gallery; a dramatic shift away from the previous residencies that resided here.
To structurally modify the building to allow for more gallery space, the arches were rebuilt and fitted with artificial lighting, to respond to issues regarding the presence of natural light into the structure. This is crucial in terms of creating an effective exhibition space and highlights how adaptive reuse can be instigated, despite challenging altercations in original plans. The presence of a bookstore on the ground floor and a rooftop garden, draws in circulation from a range of diverse visitors, further implementing increased activity in the street scene.
San Francisco Art Institute / LMS Architects
This Fort Mason U.S. army warehouse has been converted into a new campus for the San Francisco Art Institute. Using existing building resources and re-establishing the structure as a cultural landmark, the project offers a sustainable means of regeneration whilst maintaining local identity.
Offering multiple galleries, flexible educational and exhibition spaces, it is heavily orientated on the idea of the center enriching the area with Art as a beneficial practice to society. Modern day technologies, such as the addition of photovoltaics, provides all energy requirements demanded by the building. With excellent accessibility and sustainable practices, it has proven to be an exciting transformation attracting a diverse audience.
Tainan Spring / MRVDV
The empty shell of a disused shopping center in Tainan, Taiwan has metamorphosed into a mid-city paradise, a space to escape the urban sprawl. A particularly challenging venture, MVRDV has disregarded the demolition of the original center and used existing materials to revitalize this otherwise stagnant area in the cityscape.
It now presents itself as an active quarter, meticulously designed with water features to provide comfort for visitors in the hotter seasons. The remnants of the concrete frame offers flexibility and possibility, allowing room for adaptation into facilities and commercial spaces. This over time will build upon existing amenities, which include playgrounds and a performance space. These attract varied usage, during all periods of the day and night. Adaptive reuse projects that offer extensive diversity become the most successful, developing active and vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods.
Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron
Perhaps the most notorious example of the successful implementation of adaptive reuse, is the transformation of the old Bankside power station into the Tate Modern Gallery in London. One of the most visited tourist attractions in the capital, it has become an active and exciting social hub. The original bankside power station had been disused since 1981. A candidate for demolition, Herzog & de Meuron saw opportunity in the monumental ‘turbine hall’, its circulation and its potential as a cultural meeting ground.
The structure has been adapted into a modernist icon in the cityscape, making use of the vast hall for art installations and exhibitions. Its existing stark urban character has been utilized to highlight the works and reflect its contemporary nature. From obsolete to an icon, this particular project emphasizes the potential adaptive reuse can pose to our disused spaces in the built environment. Salvaging cultural and historic character to build anew…