‘Waste not, want not’ is an expression that has become increasingly pertinent in recent years as economic conditions have forced many of us to tighten our belts and make the most of what we have, rather than constantly replacing old with new. This attitude of thrift extends to architecture in the form of adaptive reuse – the conversion of an old building into something better suited to contemporary requirements. Here, we examine some recently completed, ongoing and future projects that show how imagination and intelligent design can deliver striking transformative effects.
There are few more wasteful processes than tearing down an existing building and replacing it with something entirely new. Although this, as some might argue, egregious misuse of energy and raw materials still occurs on a regular basis, adaptive reuse has become a popular alternative to demolishing the derelict and disused structures that sit on prime real estate in cities, suburbs and countryside locations around the world. These buildings often represent a faded memory of more settled or prosperous times, and, while not all have outstanding historic or aesthetic credentials, they often make up for it through a character that comes from age and use. Their replacement with modern constructions can remove any legacy and connection with the surroundings, something that intelligent reuse can retain. Although renovation can be costly, it is often cheaper than demolition and reconstruction, and it offers the possibility of securing a premium location by choosing to redevelop a building that is protected by a conservation order and sensitively adapting it.
There is currently a proliferation of properties ideally suited to adaptation situated in former industrial areas, places which have become redundant as manufacturing has been relocated. These factories, warehouses and docks are often perfect for alternative uses as they are robustly built and grand in scale. As the process of urban sprawl encourages developers to look further from city centres for affordable land, these former temples to industry are taking on new roles as locations for culture, business and urban living.
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