To counter generic new construction projects, many cities and towns are converting older structures into vibrant tech offices, loft-style residences and even art institutions -- a process known as “adaptive reuse.”
As midcentury facilities designed for once-humming industries are finding new leases on life, cities are retaining their architectural character. What’s more, adaptive reuse can be an eco-friendly option. By avoiding demolition of existing structures, architects reduce the amount of waste generated by the project. In many cases, it’s also more time-efficient than demolition and reconstruction, both in terms of the physical construction and the permitting processes involved.
Striking examples of such renovation projects include the Pinterest headquarters in San Francisco. Designed by the team of IwamotoScott Architecture with Brereton Architects, the space is in the former John Deere factory in the city’s South of Market district. Pinterest’s mission of connecting people through shared interests is echoed in the design of the renovated four-story factory building, whose main feature is a central staircase that knits its floors together. An atrium in the former factory was expanded through to the ground floor, turning the stairs into a light well that illuminates the once-gloomy first level.
Just a few blocks down the street sits the headquarters of Airbnb, the tech company that connects homeowners with visitors who need to rent a home. Airbnb occupies another former factory that has been converted into tech offices by Gensler, with a subsequent expansion by WRNS Studio. A towering lobby atrium showcases the company’s buzzing activity through windows that offer glimpses of open offices and conference rooms designed to mimic some of Airbnb’s most popular online rental listings.
In North Adams, Massachusetts, a former textile printing plant of more than 25 buildings has become a cultural center and home of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA), following a master plan by Simeon Bruner of Bruner/Cott & Associates, David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Frank Gehry, and Robert Venturi.
In Washington, DC, several former warehouses have been converted into coworking spaces for WeWork, and the Art Deco Hecht warehouse stacks luxury lofts atop a NikeTown.
To learn more about how adaptive reuse is revitalizing communities nationwide, visit topicarchitecture.com.
As more local CEOs and decision-makers recognize that adaptive reuse often retains more valuable character than generic new construction can hope to create, more architects will be called in to preserve and renovate these aging relics.