I am a huge fan of adaptive reuse… I loooooooves me my adaptive reuse. I go so far as to call adaptive reuse one of my architectural “fetishes.” There’s so much to love in adaptive reuse. Primarily, the use of something existing as a canvas for something else to be reborn is just inherently rich for me, carrying forward a history and patina. And like in cuisine, there’s the opportunity to pair, compliment, or contrast differing elements to make the experience even richer.
At the same time, it can be immensely sustainable, using the embodied energy of an existing structure as the basis for your new use, saving not only the energy of demolition and trash, but the energy in manufacturing, transport, and more of new material.
And given buildings are part of the “written record” of our human history and experience… well, you get this amazing combination of these three powerful things upon which to create.
I’ve been doing speculative adaptive reuse projects since my early university days, and so it was with the usual squee of delight that I greeted learning about the Wychwood Barns in a magazine. An old conglomeration of streetcar maintenance buildings in Toronto, now converted into a wonderful mixed-use community of live/work lofts (two more things I adore: lofts, and live/work spaces!), artist studios, performance/exhibition spaces, artisan vendors, and a greenhouse and garden. Local food production, adaptive reuse, cisterns, and mixed use, egads what is there not to love? The spaces within are, as you’d expect from an old industrial shed, tall, clearspan, and enhanced with celestory/roof monitor daylighting. The exposed brick walls lend their aged texture and weight to give strong definition to the long horizontal space, a counterpoint to the glazing at either end and overhead. The adjacent park is brought in through a deconstructed shed turned into outdoor event space.
The re-construction lasted less than a year, and a structure on its way to decay was brought back to enhance the community around it. Good design, strong action, fabulous result.