Posts Tagged ‘adaptive reuse’


Architecture Monday

April 17, 2017

A nice little piece of adaptive reuse tonight, converting an auto body shop into a Japanese bathhouse.  Wait, what?

But yes, that is completely the case.  Often we overlook many of the buildings around us, indifferent to them and only noticing when we come across big-A or grand architecture.  Yet the everyday buildings make much more of an impression on us (very much every day as it says in their name), and everyday buildings are all capable of being spaces that invite and uplift.  And so, here, this everyday building was repurposed (I will not say rehabilitated, for I don’t think it was unhabilitated before) with care to create a serene space where we may not have expected one to be found.

Exposed brick, cleaned up timber supports and columns plus new walls made of reclaimed wood, an adjusted ceiling to transform the proportions of the space, skylight to bring light deep into the space, a sealed and polished concrete floor – all elements that make themselves seen in various combinations throughout the bathhouse.  Add to that an overall aesthetic that continually mixes opposites to heighten and enhance each and every part.  It’s straightforward and sensuous.  Lovely place.

Onsen in San Francisco.


Architecture Monday

March 13, 2017

Let’s journey to King’s Cross station tonight, to visit the new West Concourse.  Fantastically combining adaptive reuse of the existing historic buildings with expressive structural elegance, it creates a great new expanse of space that welcomes travelers to London.

This was one complex project, touching a total of five existing buildings to improve flow and access to a bevy of train lines, underground railways, a hotel, and more.  For me the big delights are the fact that, despite this massive undertaking, they sought to preserve as much of the existing fabric as possible, and using that as a starting-off point for some great moments and spaces.

Inside the existing buildings, there is a wonderful dialogue between the old and the new, between the contemporary modifications and the historic backdrop.  It is not necessary to copy or mirror the past in order for a building to fit in with its neighbors (or, in this case, fit inside).  There are numerous ways to make the two be in dialogue and, even better, enhance each other in a way that a pastiche repetition would not.  Steel and glass and sleek lighting plays very well with the old brick, highlighting and beautifying the rich texture of the beefy masonry.

The new entry hall takes a different, but equally fruitful, path, with a radiant forest of columns and beams that form a dome over the entire hall (and that also delicately nestles in against the existing curved face of the Great Northern Hotel).  Tall, soaring, and seeming to float overhead, the roof highlights the restored facade of the Western Range building and leaving plenty of room for the necessities of a very busy train station.

The existing platforms were also similarly restored and upgraded, so that travelers today can marvel at the energetic structures that long have been a staple in grand stations.

Overall, lovely work.  And, as a bonus… at the end of the grand new concourse, a new, semi-secret platform was added, known to all those who have read the Harry Potter books:

King’s Cross Station by John McAlsan + Partners


Architecture Monday

March 6, 2017

Adaptive reuse, skateboarding, and shoes.

Hmm.  A curious mix indeed.  As is the project brief for a large underground venue to host performance spaces, art galleries, video display, food and drink, and, most surprisingly, a large skate park.  All within 150 year old brick train tunnels under an active rail yard.

This is a nifty project.  Architecture is all about space.  It’s about how a space is defined, how it feels, and how it performs.  To the architect, materials, light, and volume are the palette.  With those tools, inspiration can come from anywhere.  And here, the architects have done a great job at embracing the motifs and physical features of the skateboarding world (including the pattern often used in Vans shoes) to shape their design.   Deft moves of concrete and a splendid use of light enhance the rough and rigid train tunnels to create a dynamic series of interconnected rooms.  Altogether, despite its seemingly rough and tumble nature, the whole assemblage actually feels kind of refined.

Very cool.  House of Vans in London, by Pete Hellicar and Tim Greatrex.


Architecture Monday

December 26, 2016

This one’s not built yet, but it’s already got me intrigued.  An insertion into and old former water tower, in the town of Noordwijk, Netherlands.

Through that lovely model we can see how this is an example of a building “designed in section”, which is to say that there has been a lot of attention placed into the interplay of rooms and spaces in the vertical direction.  We’re more familiar with looking at plan views, and evaluating how this room joins another room just next to it.  But the upwards dance is just as important in creating spaces that feel good and enlivening, especially in something like a tower which, by it’s very nature, can’t accommodate much spreading out.  The model shows off the complex interlocking rooms, with mezzanines, double height spaces, stairs criss-crossing, and the grand windows both high and low.

An adaptive reuse (yay!) that will house both a private home and some public areas, the tower will be capped with a viewing platform to look out over the rugged landscape.  Colour me interested!

Water Tower by Studio Akkerhuis


Architecture Monday

December 19, 2016

I love train travel. I love adaptive reuse. A project that combines them both? Double love!

The need and desire: to make many unmanned and otherwise unremarkable train stops in the Netherlands both safer and more pleasant spots from which to catch a train. Without, as is common, breaking the bank. The design put forward: use that other ubiquitous transportation device, the leftover shipping container, to create something visually striking and with tightly integrated amenities.

The result: Combine the shipping containers like a series of toy blocks into a straightforward and recognizable form that is striking even from a distance. The containers at the ground level are mostly deconstructed down to structure to house the amenities. Painted white, they contrast strongly with the other, solid, containers painted black. Finished by white lettering, they all go together to make the whole station look sleek and proper.

A waiting room and flower & coffee shop sit nicely within glassed-in areas at opposite ends of the station. The use of frameless glass makes them look almost the same as the centre box, which is left open for the ticket vending machine. Besides being a marker of place – and a clock tower – the tall container is also perhaps one of the most striking bathroom experiences ever. Inside, the room extends up some 40’ to a skylight!

Great little project that takes some otherwise leftover bits and, with some strong design, turns them into a totally legit train station where you can sit protected, grab a coffee, and hopefully not daydream on that toilet, getting so lost in the clouds overhead that you miss your train.

Barneveld Noord by NL Architects


Architecture Monday

November 14, 2016

Oh wow I so love this project!   This is a great renovation and re-use of a communal courtyard in Beijing.  This used to be the common building type across the city, with a dozen or so families sharing the courtyard.  Over generations, each family built little additions and outbuildings to increase their space, until a little warren was created.

before the renovation

before the renovation

The designers took this space, and rather than demolish it completely, re-invented it to contain a simple program:  children’s library, reading space, and art space.  The courtyard is no longer as crammed, but it maintains the same character, with the complex interplay between enclosed and open spaces.  They even managed to keep the one building wrapping around the tree.

And oh my yes, that art space around the tree!  The way the window faces the tree, making it front and centre when inside, is fabulous.  Equally so is the rough and grey brick that form stairs and a myriad of platforms, letting child and adult alike use the outside for play, for reading, or just to reach the branches of the tree above.

The library is artfully tucked under an existing roof, emerging in a boxlike protrusion that hovers mysteriously over the courtyard floor, it’s big window inviting investigation (as well as providing a seat and plenty of light).  Inside, the 3D puzzle of shelves, benches, and window alcoves creates this playful environment and lots of different places to set yourself down to read, whether you want privacy or openness, light or enclosure.

Everything is done with simple materials put together with precision, the warm wood a nice contrast to the grey brick and concrete tinted with Chinese ink that itself ties into the surrounding buildings and the feeling of longevity and continuity of the courtyard.

This is a glorious little insertion into an existing realm.  It isn’t fully an adaptive re-use, but it is carrying forth the essence of what lived there before, without aping it and without being a pastiche.  Simply done with simple materials, with pure, well proportioned forms and a dash of playfulness.  Great design makes this one wonderful series of spaces to be in and on top of.  Very well done, I love it lots!  (and it seems I’m not the only one…)

Micro-Yuan’er  by ZAO/standardarchitecture



Architecture Monday

October 31, 2016

Some buildings are described having “good bones”.   Others, well, while they may be solidly built the rest of their make-up and configuration leaves way much to be desired.  A simple coat of paint won’t do the trick.

Fortunately, that’s not all architects and architecture can do.

This little bookstore started its life as an apartment atop a solid concrete housing block.  Being at the top in this case wasn’t glorious penthouse living – the layout left the apartment dim and feeling cramped, with solid concrete (and structural) walls separating the rooms.  These immobile walls left the layout mostly fixed.  And so, perhaps counter intuitively, the architects chose to divide the rooms even further with a series of shelves and walls that integrate together like a giant piece of furniture.  Where they could, they cut window-sized openings in those concrete walls, using them as desk spaces.

bookstore-2The end result is a lovely cozy warren of shelves, books, and reading nooks.  Light from the exterior windows (and especially from the well reconditioned enclosed balcony) can penetrate deep throughout the spaces.  Views between the little rooms create shifting vistas of people and books and light as you walk through the shop.  Each alcove is rightly proportioned as to not overwhelm with books and being generous enough with space to encourage reading while not feeling like you’re in the way.

Details are tight and well done, with the white walls, floors, and ceiling letting the warm wood of the shelves and the colourful spines of the books define the space.  And in a delightful little touch of whimsy, the sign for the shop is hung outside and perfectly framed by the round window in the elevator lobby.  (The architects are now also working to revitalize the roof as a communal area)

From house to shop, this is a great little bit of adaptive reuse.  It also shows what difference design can bring inside the rigid confines of a concrete box.  Very nicely done.

Reedom Bookstore by Cao Pu