Adaptive Reuse

It is known that the main function of museums is protecting cultural heritage and preserving national stories for future generations.

In case of built heritage this aim presents a real challenge — a challenge that is being enthusiastically taken up by builders, developers, architects, community groups, heritage councils, individuals and all levels of government. Preserving our past, building our future highlights how our built heritage can be conserved through the successful marriage of existing heritage structures and cutting edge architectural design. The best way to preserve heritage is to give them an adequate new use.

“Adaptive reuse” is the process of reusing an old site or building for a purpose other than which it was built or designed for. Where a building can no longer function with its original use, a new use through adaptation may be the only way to preserve its heritage significance. Sometimes, adaptive reuse is the only way that the building’s fabric will be properly cared for, revealed or interpreted, while making better use of the building itself. It is seen as an effective way of reducing urban problems and environmental impact. However adaptive reuse can become controversial as there is sometimes a blurred line between renovation, fasadism and adaptive reuse. It can be regarded as a compromise between historic preservation and demolition. The adaptive reuse of a historic building should have minimal impact on the heritage significance of the building and its setting. Developers should gain an understanding of why the building has heritage status, and then pursue development that is sympathetic to the building to give it a new purpose. Adaptive reuse is self-defeating if it fails to protect the building’s heritage values.

There is a long list of issues to be discussed and considerable when AR involves historical buldings:

  • What are the issues of conservation and heritage polices?
  • Should a building been conserved? How big is its value?
  • Is the site historically important?
  • What is the potential for the reuse for a particular case?
  • What kinds of benefits do have adaptively reusing heritage buildings (environmental, social, economic etc.)
  • What it means to change a building, originally not built as a museum, into a museum? This question is challenges and probably advantages in the same time.
  • Logistics, planning, exhibition spaces etc. – are there general solutions, or a general way to approach these challenges?
  • ….

The adaptation of heritage buildings presents a genuine challenge to architects and designers to find innovative solutions. 


Successful and Wellknown Cases of Adaptive Reuse: 

    The Musée d’Orsay’s gorgeous architecture blows visitors away, even before they step inside to see the unparalleled collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art. The Gare d’Orsay, a beautiful Beaux-Arts train station built in 1900, was only used until 1939, when new electric trains made the too-short platforms unusable. Entering the museum, you can imagine what it must have looked like then, with the ornate gold clock hovering above the tracks. Admiring the paintings can transport you to that time—highlights include works by Manet, Courbet, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, and Renoir.
    London’s world-renowned Tate Modern showcases impressively vast spaces in addition to the superb collection of modern art. Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron artfully transformed the former Bankside Power Station into one of the UK’s top tourist attractions, maintaining the building’s architectural integrity. Stripped down to its steel and brick bones, the museum is comprised of an impressive turbine hall—now the main entrance—and the boiler house transformed into the galleries. Art by modern masters like Matisse, Picasso, Pollock, and Rothko are a major draw.
    Housed in a former Peroni brewery, MACRO (Museo d’Arte Contemporaneo di Roma) exhibits work by contemporary Italian artists. Along with MAXXI, the MACRO showcases the best of Rome’s modern and contemporary art, proving there’s more to the Eternal City than the centuries-old art that fills most of its museums. French architect Odile Decq (who also designed the modern restaurant inside Paris’s Opéra Garnier) updated the building, whose most prominent feature is the giant red cuboid in the center. A rooftop terrace provides a gathering space, much like an Italian piazza.
    Architects Aranguren & Gallegos transformed one of Madrid’s first breweries into the stunningly modern Museo ABC. The façade—made of a mosaic of triangles—shimmers in the sunlight, and the interior spaces are bright and airy. Visitors enter through a courtyard decorated by glass triangles that filter light into the basement galleries, where drawings and prints are displayed. José López Salaberry, who was largely responsible for Madrid’s early 20th century urban development, designed the original factory in 1900.
    CaixaForum has six centers around Spain (plus two more under construction), but the Barcelona location has the most unique building. Built in 1911 as a factory, the redbrick building is a fine example of Art Nouveau architecture. The restoration juxtaposes ultra-modern elements, like the steel and glass entryway by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, with the historic design. A dynamic roster of temporary exhibits, concerts, lectures, and cultural events make the CaixaForum a key player in Barcelona’s cultural scene.
    Tucked away in the Berkshires, the sprawling campus of Mass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts) is comprised of 27 buildings spread out over 13 acres. Here, the former Sprague Electrical Company is now home to America’s largest contemporary visual and performing arts center. The sheer size of this enormous museum enables artists to install monumental pieces that might not fit anywhere else. Sol LeWitt’s extensive wall drawings cover nearly an acre of specially-built interior walls and Joseph Beuys’ symbolic sculpture “Lightning with Stag in Its Glare” occupies the second floor of Building 4. You could easily spend a whole day here, stopping for lunch at the café or bistro, browsing the shops, and visiting the Kidspace gallery and studio. 
    Established in 1977, the Mattress Factory Art Museum functions as a lab for contemporary artists in residence, who create room-sized installations and site-specific works. The museum grew out of the abandoned Stearns & Foster warehouse built at the turn of the century, and now occupies three repurposed old buildings. James Turrell created the first works in the museum’s permanent collection, and Damien Hirst had his first U.S. museum show here. Now, 17 installations form the permanent collection, including work by Yayoi Kusama, Allan Wexler, Bill Woodrow, Winifred Lutz, and Greer Lankton.
    For modern and contemporary art lovers, a trip to Dia:Beacon is considered a pilgrimage. The contemporary art powerhouse, north of New York City in the Hudson Valley, is one of America’s must-see art museums. A symbol of Beacon’s past as a major industrial center, Dia:Beacon occupies the former Nabisco box printing factory built in 1929. The nearly 300,000-square-foot museum houses Dia’s collection from the 1960s to the present, including monumental installations by Richard Serra, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Louise Bourgeois, Joseph Beuys, and Sol LeWitt. 
    Back in 1914, the Silahtarağa Power Plant was the Ottoman Empire’s first urban-scale power plant, supplying Istanbul with energy until 1983. When Santralistanbul opened in 2007, it transformed the original turbine rooms into the Museum of Energy, Turkey’s first archeological-industrial museum. The main gallery hosts art exhibits and cultural events. The meticulously preserved power plant offers visitors a glimpse into its industrial past, awing them with the old steel architecture and enormous turbines.

·       Danish National Maritime Museum / BIG

·       Museum of Natural History in Philippines

·       Tate Modern in London

·       MUSÉE D’ORSAY in Paris

·       Museo ABC de Dibujo e Ilustración in Madrid

·       Entrance for the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam

·       Art Gallery in Moscow

·       Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum

·       Futura CDMX museum

·       Caixa Forum, Madrid

·       Morgan Library, Manhattan

·       Punta Della Dogana in Venice

·       Kuppershmule Museu, Daisburg

·       Contemporary Art Museum, Madrid – Many Examples of reusing buildings are here

Links about Adaptive Reuse Cases