9 Inspirational Examples of Adaptive Reuse
Breathing new life into an old structure can do more than just give a building a whole new purpose—it can transform a unique historic space into a family home or reinvigorate a community. The following 10 structures were fortunate enough to fall into visionary hands and are enjoying a pretty fabulous second shot at life.
Brod Hart’s home in London's Finsbury Park is hidden away on a quiet street filled with Victorian houses typical of the neighborhood. During former incarnations, the structure served as stables and a piano factory before finally becoming Hart's industrial-chic, wheelchair-accessible residence. Hart managed the renovation himself and lived on-site during the process.
This 4,500-square-foot, 19th-century warehouse within a residential neighborhood in Melbourne had previously been a jam factory, an engineering consultancy, an advertising agency, and an aerated water factory, but the massive space had never been a home. "The project was designed to take advantage of the existing building’s fabric as much as possible. Minimal interventions were made into the existing floors, walls, and roof structure, thereby allowing for a very efficient use of materials," principal architect Andrew Simpson says about the project—which also houses the family's antique car collection.
This century-old historic Dutch schoolhouse building was given a second life when it was converted into 10 apartments by Casa Architecten. The Amsterdam-based Standard Studio was later brought in by a family of five to tackle the interior design of their apartment. The pared-down industrial look of the open-plan family dwelling is a nod to the original utilitarian function of the space.
When architects Chava Danielson and Eric Haas of DSH // architecture were charged with transforming iconic Los Angeles architect Welton Becket’s 1955 New York Life Insurance Company Building into the campus for Larchmont Charter High School in Los Angeles, they embraced and preserved the key elements of the structure’s original midcentury design, modifying the interior to accommodate the students.
Lake|Flato Architects transformed a 20th-century machine shop into the Denver headquarters of Armstrong Oil and Gas, excising the center section of the roof to create a landscaped courtyard that brings natural light and ventilation into the offices. The project won the 2011 Institute Honor Award for Interior Architecture.
Led by Sydney-based realty agency Greencliff, this adaptive reuse project turned a neglected street into a vibrant public space. Kensington Street's terraced 1840s workers' cottages and old industrial buildings are now a bustling urban block filled with retail and dining experiences—and even a boutique hotel. The project was awarded two Good Design Awards in 2016.
Working for a developer, design studio Overland Partners renovated the 1917 Hughes Plumbing Warehouse for its own offices, with space for other tenants. Located in downtown San Antonio, Texas, the rehabbed building revitalizes a once-bustling city block.
Architect Nobuo Araki of The Archetype and Harajuku icon Hiroshi Fujiwara have taken an 800-car parking structure in Tokyo and transformed it into a 7,500-square-feet subterranean shopping experience, fusing adaptive reuse with retail.
For this project in Boston's Brighton district, members of the Kollel—a post-graduate Talmudic research institute that trains future Rabbis—collaborated with the Aberdeen Historical Society, architects Miriam Tropp Spear and Sharon Jacobson, and Framingham-based builder L/R Construction. The resulting structure respects the neighborhood's Classical Revival history with an understated golden brick facade.
Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Jennifer Baum Lagdameo is a freelance design writer who has lived in Washington DC, Brooklyn, Tokyo and Manila. She is currently exploring the Pacific Northwest from her home base in Portland, OR. Follow her on Instagram @jenniferlagdameo