Architectural projects may not always have empty plots - with their countless possibilities - to work with. Adapting pre-existing buildings to new demands is a challenge that requires a different approach.
Refurbishment Architecture: The Latest Architecture and News
Given the sheer magnitude and influence of its recorded history, Italy as we know it is a surprisingly young country. For centuries, the region was divided between powerful (and sometimes warring) city-states, each with their own identity, culture, and, fortunes, and influence. Some are eternally famous. Rome is a cradle of history and heart of religion; cool Milan is a hub of contemporary fashion and design; Florence is synonymous with the Renaissance and all the epoch’s relationship to the arts.
Turin’s history is arguably less romantic. The small city in Savoy, a north-Italian region bordering France, has established an identity as an industrial powerhouse. It is home to FIAT and some of Italy’s finest universities; the streets are dotted with works by Nervi, Botta, and Rossi. But despite the design pedigree, perhaps nothing better illustrates the region’s faceted history better than Castello di Rivoli.
On the surface, designing a new art museum for Harvard University is a brief so straightforward that it sounds like part of university curriculum itself. The program lends itself to the type of light and airy spaces architects dream of creating; the campus site promises both steady and engaged traffic. But, for all the apparent advantages, the road to realizing Harvard’s Art Museums was a deceptively complex one - one that ultimately took six years to see realized.
Half a century after the new suburban tract home was the dream of many a young American family, refurbished properties are gaining in popularity. This trend extends beyond North America, with exciting renovations of existing structures popping up all over the world, from Belgium to Kenya to China. The attraction to this typology likely lies in its multiplicity; renovations are both new and old, historic and forward-looking, generative and sustainable.
Nowhere is this trend more visible and popular than in housing, where the transformation is often led by the owners themselves. Loosely grouped under terms like “fixer-upper” and “adaptive reuse,” these projects begin with just the structural skeletons and the building’s history. At the personal scale, renovation/refurbishment is an opportunity to bring a part of yourself to your home - but do these small projects together have the potential to turn around a housing crisis?
Nestled in the steep gorges and river valleys of Japan’s Tokushima prefecture is Kamikatsu - a small town seemingly like any other. But Kamikatsu, unlike its neighbors (or indeed, most towns in the world), is nearly entirely waste-free.
Since 2003 - years before the movement gained widespread popularity - the town has committed to a zero-waste policy. The requirements are demanding: waste must be sorted in more than 30 categories, broken or obsolete items are donated or stripped for parts, unwanted items are left in a store for community exchange. But the residents’ efforts over the years have paid off- nearly 80% of all the village’s waste is recycled.
The story of the Hastings Pier is an improbable one. Located in Hastings - a stone's throw away from the battlefield that defined English history - the pier was first opened to the promenading public in 1872. For decades the structure, an exuberant array of Victorian-era decoration, entertained seaside crowds but by the new millennium had fallen out of disrepair. In 2008 the pier was closed - a closure that became seemingly irreversible when, two years later, it burnt down.
At the meeting point of the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal in Venice is a triangular plot of land, the Punta Della Dogana. On the site sits a long, low-slung 17th-century structure punctuated at its tip by a squat tower topped with an ornamental green and gold weather vane representing fortune. This former customs house of Venice, the Dogana da Mar, was purchased in 2007 by François Pinault with the intention of converting the structure into an art museum, a task he entrusted to Tadao Ando.
While the Japanese architect may not have been the obvious choice to work with a historic Italian building, Ando's solution combined a total respect for the existing building with the sharp minimalism for which he is known. Stripping back centuries of additions, the building was largely restored to its original structure. At the heart of the building's deep plan, a pure concrete volume hints at the architect of the restoration, serving to organize the spaces around it. In 2013, the building was photographed by Luca Girardini on the occasion of the exhibition "Elogio del dubbio."