From gloomy ruin to grandiose revival: large scale adaptive reuse projects in 2022

Best of 2022: STIR picks six large scale adaptive reuse projects over the past year whose sheer scale, scope, and ambition have set new precedents for restorative interventions.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Dec 21, 2022

In the contemporary built environment, an ecosystem already riddled with an abundance of structures that have either outlasted their intended purpose or fallen into neglect and disrepair, the question of preservation is not one to be taken lightly, especially in light of wastefulness that has led the world to the precipice of the current global climate emergency. Adaptive reuse, as a measure to revitalise disregarded portions of this ecosystem, has steadily been on the rise over the past decade, having skyrocketed into the spotlight following the award of the 2021 Pritzker Prize to Lacaton & Vassal, whose transformative approach to architectural interventions has received generous acclaim in the years prior to and succeeding their triumph. By virtue of its ability to transcend scale, style, typology, context, or program, while also significantly lowering carbon footprints of construction when compared to new builds, adaptive reuse could prove vital in conserving local heritage and landmarks, while providing them with a whole new purpose. When looking into the notion of scale within this type of venture, certain projects exert an influence on their specific contexts to a degree that few others can even hope to match, bordering on urban design ventures in their own right. As part of its compilation of the best in design and architecture over the past year, STIR has curated a selection of monumental adaptive reuse interventions which prove that size is no object to groundbreaking design.

1. Argo Contemporary Art Museum and Cultural Centre by ASA North

  • The Argo Contemporary Art Museum and Cultural Centre, Tehran, Iran | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    The Argo Contemporary Art Museum and Cultural Centre, Tehran, Iran Image: Aga Khan Trust For Culture - Photograph by Deed Studio
  • The project was the winner of both the Architecture project of the year and the Cultural building category at the Dezeen Awards 2022 | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    The project was the winner of both the Architecture project of the year and the Cultural building category at the Dezeen Awards 2022 Image: Aga Khan Trust For Culture - Photograph by Deed Studio

Said to be the first private contemporary art museum completed in Tehran since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Argo Contemporary Art Museum and Cultural Centre by Ahmadreza Schricker Architecture – North (ASA North) in Iran’s capital, has reinvigorated a former industrial brewery into a nexus for cultural revitalisation. As the winner of both the Architecture project of the year and the Cultural building category at the Dezeen Awards 2022, the project retained much of its former charm, emphasised in its beautiful exposed brick façade design capped by new floating roofs. The firm’s intervention effectively expanded the functional areas under the building’s former envelope, opening them up to the world outside to foster public engagement, as a melting pot for local artists and residents.

2. Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan by David Chipperfield Architects

  • Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan by David Chipperfield Architects, Jingdezhen, China | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    Ceramic Art Avenue Taoxichuan by David Chipperfield Architects, Jingdezhen, China Image: © Fangfang Tian
  • Mushrooming columns support the Grand Theatre’s vast concrete roof | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    Mushrooming columns support the Grand Theatre’s vast concrete roof Image: © Fangfang Tian

Comprising a Grand Theatre, hotel complex, new public plazas, and a performing arts campus, this urban scale intervention by British architecture practice David Chipperfield Architects has transformed a series of decommissioned industrial buildings in Jingdezhen, China, into an arts, culture, and hospitality district, paying tribute to brick structures in its vicinity. The project, implemented in two phases over a four-year period, involved the refurbishment of existing buildings, alongside the addition of new structures separated by open spaces and a grand promenade, encompassing the typologies of cultural architecture, hospitality design, and institutional architecture. Exhibiting a design language that is both contextually sensitive and decidedly contemporary, the project has ushered a once forgotten quarter of the city into the modern era.

3. Battersea Power Station by WilkinsonEyre

  • Battersea Power Station redevelopment by WilkinsonEyre, London, United Kingdom | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    Battersea Power Station redevelopment by WilkinsonEyre, London, United Kingdom Image: Peter Landers
  • The new interiors of the power station utilise existing industrial elements to heighten the experience of the space and an enhanced sense of historical connection | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    The new interiors of the power station utilise existing industrial elements to heighten the experience of the space and an enhanced sense of historical connection Image: Courtesy of Backdrop Productions

The Battersea Power Station on the southern bank of the River Thames, originally designed by British architect Giles Gilbert Scott, is an iconic and immobile image for the city of London, UK. Decommissioned in stages during 1970s and 1980s, the emblematic four-chimneyed brick structure has undergone a metamorphosis under the guidance of WilkinsonEyre, reopening as a commercial and cultural complex. The team at WilkinsonEyre, led by Sebastien Ricard (Project Director) and Jim Eyre (Project Principal), were fully aware of the stature of the architectural object whose adaptive reuse they were dealing with—due to its Grade II listed heritage status—which resulted in an interventive, rather than an obtrusive approach, to giving the building a new lease of life. Painstakingly restored brick palisades and iron trusses coexist with contemporary floor finishes to the newly added levels, alongside skeletal glass and steel cables in parallel planes—something the architects term a “box in a box” strategy of volumetric inclusion. The same manifests elaborately in the atrium situated at the entrance of the building as a much more comprehensive reinterpretation of the double skin façade system, with the outer layer being a bricked patina frozen in time, and the inner a reminiscence of an industrial heritage in steel and glass, cosmetically propping it up.

4. GES-2 House of Culture by Renzo Piano Building Workshop

  • GES-2 House of Culture by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Moscow, Russia | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    GES-2 House of Culture by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Moscow, Russia Image: Michel Denancé
  • The building’s revitalised industrial interior | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    The building’s revitalised industrial interior Image: Michel Denancé

A historical tram power station in Moscow, Russia—designed in the Russian Revival style by Vasily Bashkirov (architect of the nearby Tretyakov Gallery) in 1907 and decommissioned in 2006— the revival of the GES-2 by Renzo Piano Building Workshop has been described as “a new manifesto for the city and the profession, and a powerful case study of how to treat a historical building.” Set to develop fresh perspectives on artistic production, the new arts and culture venue will connect exhibitions, music, theatre, performances, film screenings, and engage them in continuous dialogues with one another. The Italian architect consciously decided to restore the original building by removing haphazard additions that over the years obscured it quite dramatically, and in doing so, minimised his own presence, at least beyond the power station’s shell. What then emerged, is a restored historical structure authored by another architect. A pair of 70-metre high double chimneys painted in a cheerful blue colour, welcome visitors from the outside while a raised piazza and sculpture garden add landscape design features to its bounding site. Furthermore, the interior of GES-2 was entirely emptied from its machinery to make a singular airy space, which may be compared to a Gothic Cathedral (some valve castings, control valves, pipe fittings, and other machine room equipment can still be spotted here and there, where these whimsical objects are put on display as remnants of the building’s industrial past).

5. Morland Mixité Capitale by David Chipperfield Architects

  • Morland Mixité Capitale by David Chipperfield Architects + CALQ Architecture in Paris, France | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    Morland Mixité Capitale by David Chipperfield Architects + CALQ Architecture in Paris, France Image: © Simon Menges
  • A system of in-situ concrete arches divide space in the courtyard, while visually uniting the tower and its extensions | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    A system of in-situ concrete arches divide space in the courtyard, while visually uniting the tower and its extensions Image: Michel Denancé

Completed during the 1960s by French architects Albert Laprade, Pierre-Victor Fournier, and René Fontaine to house city administration, the former 'Préfecture de Paris' building along the banks of the Seine in the 4th arrondissement of France's capital has been given a new identity through an adaptive reuse intervention, reborn as mixed-use development christened the 'Morland Mixité Capitale'. The venture, conducted by an interdisciplinary team headed by David Chipperfield Architects Berlin, CALQ Architecture, and French real estate developer Emerige, in association with Michel Desvigne Paysagiste and Studio Other Spaces, the building's rebirth has seen its previously introverted public face on Paris' Boulevard Morland metamorphose into one that is far more transparent and inviting, blending classical sensibilities with contemporary architectural flourishes. Furthermore, the intervention has subsequently reconfigured the program to a mixed-use architectural typology, accommodating upscale and affordable housing, a hotel, a youth hostel, offices, retail, a gallery, a food market, and a childcare facility. 

6. Sugar Factory Żnin by Bulak Projekt

  • Sugar Factory Żnin by Bulak Projekt in Żnin, Poland | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    Sugar Factory Żnin by Bulak Projekt in Żnin, Poland Image: ONI STUDIO
  • A metal slide references the exposed ductwork of the complex while infusing an element of playfulness to the interior design | Large Scale Adaptive Reuse in 2022 | STIRworld
    A metal slide references the exposed ductwork of the complex while infusing an element of playfulness to the interior design Image: Michel Denancé

In the city of Żnin in Poland, the enduring shell of a 19th century sugar factory, commonly referred to as the Cukrownia Żnin (Żnin Sugar Factory), was the beneficiary of an adaptive reuse venture, with its raw brick structures having been transformed into a hotel complex with a number of supplementary recreational facilities in the vicinity. Under the intervention, none of the existing structures were demolished, and all were assigned new functions, with some still in progress. Although large elements of the old sugar factory now interact with new functions, they are still quite visible, where smaller elements were also maintained and incorporated into the interior design to retain the former structure’s natural authenticity. The reverence for the original development’s spirit can be seen in the interwoven textures of exposed brick, weathered steel sections, and patinated concrete whose collective materiality remains the defining aspect of the project’s industrial-style aesthetic. This is further augmented by the architects' decision to retain the original stepped brick façade design, soaring chimney, and pitched roofs, that were a marker of the era that gave birth to the complex.

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