9 Inspirational Examples of Adaptive Reuse

The best use for a building can be 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. 

A Wheelchair-Accessible Home in London

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.

View into the bedroom with private terrace from the living room. A simple palette of grays blends with the industrial-chic aesthetic, with splashes of red and gold.

Warehouse-Turned-Home With Vintage Car Storage

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.

"A high-performance, heavily tinted glass was used within the skylights’ double-glazed units to reduce summer heat," Simpson says. Autex Industries provided the insulation for the year’s cooler months, and the addition of a second, more geometric ceiling hides modern-day electrical and mechanical cords.

From a Historic Dutch Schoolhouse to Apartments

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.

The old classroom space is now an open-concept living and family room. With a family of five and limited interior space, creative storage solutions were essential to the functionality of the home. Simple birch plywood built-in storage under the stairs provides a place to stash kids’ toys, as well as a platform for playing and sitting. Concrete floors flow through the entire home.

A High School in a Former Insurance Company Building 

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.

DSH // architecture carried out an adaptive reuse project, which preserved key elements of Welton Becket’s original design, but modified the interior.

From Machine Shop to Modern Office Space

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.

Armstrong Oil and Gas in Denver, Colorado. Designed by Lake|Flato Architects. Winner of the 2011 Institute Honor Award for Interior Architecture. Project description: "The adaptive re-use of a 1900s machine shop celebrates the spirit, craft and materiality of its original program. The transformed spaces are organized around a new landscaped courtyard created by stripping away the center section of the existing roof to bring in natural light and ventilation to the interior spaces. A gated entry court on the street front acts as a threshold to the courtyard framed by two brick volumes containing the building’s public spaces on one side and office spaces on the other."

Urban Rehab of a Sydney Street

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.

Spice Alley's four outdoor eateries enliven the laneway under a canopy of red lanterns. "Resurrected building frontages spill out onto the street and provide a streetscape that is activated by day and night by conversation, creative hustle, and culture," says landscape architect Mike Horne of Turf Design Studio.

A Warehouse-Turned-Design Studio

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.

Skylights bring natural light into an interior that showcases original brickwork and pine timbers and joists.

A Tokyo Garage With Subterranean Shopping

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. 

A cafe and record shop welcome visitors to the first level on the subterranean shopping experience Park-Ing Ginza.

A Historic Synagogue in Boston  

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.

In the rear, triangular window bay juts from the building's main mass.


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