Transforming existing buildings into residential projects by innovating with materials
Considering the time, energy, and environmental impact of a building process, architecture must explore different methodologies that work with the existing built environment. For example: how to bring a forgotten building back to life? Adaptive reuse gives new opportunities to abandoned buildings, following the idea that good architecture should be sustainable, innovative and recyclable.
Architects must not only design for the present, but must also think about how to adapt buildings for the future. Given the current global situation regarding the climate crisis and available natural resources, adaptive reuse explores strategies for sustainability and design innovation, working to reduce energy consumption, minimal carbon impact and social impact positive.
Through a selection of ingenious residential projects – in which materials are immersed in a process of transformation, maintenance or renovation – the article opens a discussion on how good architecture is sustainable and reusable. We explore a series of innovative material strategies used by architects to retrofit existing buildings into new homes, according to varying needs and requirements.
Enhance the materiality of the building
A second life for the windmill
Designed for a rural landscape, Windmill House stands out for its strong nod to the traditional architecture of the Polish countryside. The strategy aims to give a second life to the wind turbine by adapting the interior to residential requirements and technical and local conditions.
The design is based on three materials: wood, concrete and glass. Maintaining wooden planks in its facade helps the building retain its original expression and form. The project incorporates glass as a significant material to open the interior to its environment. As new functions involve new structures, after restoration of reusable elements, the design plan added reinforced concrete floors, walls and ceiling. Taking up the old beams of the mill, the project created a half-timbered interior wall.
Minimize the impact by reusing a stable
The stable house is part of a family compound which intends to minimize its impact on the bush reserve. The project retains the stable’s old heritage brick walls around the entire perimeter, revealing themselves in different ways throughout the house.
Adding a white ceiling volume creates a lighted space that contrasts with the warmth and texture of the existing wooden ceilings and exposed brick walls. The plan includes four passive sustainable strategies; with the maximization of the brick wall as a new enclosure, he envisioned native planted screen dressing, natural shading and cross ventilation for the house.
Experiment with existing containers
From shipping containers to guest house, Poteet Architects demonstrates its sensitivity to transforming existing buildings into modern interior design. Their approach keeps the steel container open and opens it up to the surrounding landscape with the addition of glass.
Clearly geared towards sustainability, the new life of the container features a green roof, an insulated interior and the introduction of a foundation made from recycled telephone poles.
Give the building a new aesthetic
Art Deco style church transformed into two new houses
Built in 1924, the former Luc Chapel in Bern, Switzerland has been transformed into two new houses. Morscher Architects introduced new material strategies to enable living conditions in the old building. To maintain free space in the floor plan while receiving light from the church window, the main action was to design the upper apartment in a suspended concrete box. The addition of glass in the closed facade also illuminates the interior.
Old warehouse in a new family home
With a focus on maintaining the industrial vibe of the old Redfern warehouse while creating new living space, the project adds architectural elements. The insertion of refined and elegant elements creates an illuminated space, with natural light, ventilation and views of the landscape, which differentiates the concept of a family house from the existing building.
Mixed-use architecture with adaptive reuse
Introducing new materials into an existing steel structure warehouse transformed the space into nearly 54,000m2 of mixed-use space. The restructuring of the Katendrecht district was carried out at the same time as the renovation of disused buildings. Managed as a flexible concrete construction, the residential volume supports a steel table structure built through the warehouse. The simple and bright interiors allow flexible floor plans in the apartments, ready to adapt to different necessities and dimensions.
Transform the interior, maintain the exterior
A theater is transformed to adapt to the needs of new spectators
Inside the Majestic Theater – a brick volume with a distinguished plastered facade – a new project integrates commercial use and three levels of residential apartments. Keeping the existing volume, the profile of the roof and the surrounding walls, the proposal intervenes inside with simple materials and light colors to offer lighted and spacious living spaces.
From the dance hall to the transformation of the house
The transformation aimed to preserve and enhance the constructive elements of the building with three main strategies. The recovery of the original facade showed the materiality and the composition of the face of the building on the city. Reinforcement of the structure with the new requirements and insulation to increase interior comfort have been part of improving its energy efficiency and structure. A bioclimatic hall has been defined by a large sliding skylight that illuminates and ventilates the space.
Hay barn and house
With a focus on enhancing historic buildings, the intervention completely preserved the residential building, which is connected to the hay barn with the introduction of a wooden structure.
Retaining black walls and vertical openings, the authentic elements of the old farmhouse continued to be present in the new design. To transform the interiors into a residential unit, it is divided into two floors separated into bedrooms and common areas. The project aimed to preserve and display its natural materials, keeping its old stone masonry and the existing barn roof framework.
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