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You don’t have to be an architect or history buff to appreciate the appeal of old buildings. But when a building is abandoned, or no longer serves its original purpose, what to do? The easier route is demolition, but many would hate seeing something historical torn down. The adaptive reuse movement aims to meet somewhere in the middle: restoring and respecting the original structure, while reimagining the space in a way that serves a modern function. Check out some of our favorite examples around the country!
The Pitkin Theater Building
An abandoned theater becomes a modern charter school in Brooklyn, New York.
Before: The Loew’s Pitkin Theater in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn closed about 40 years ago, after operating as a theater venue since 1929. All those years of neglect led to some serious decay, but people saw value in the historic significance and beauty of this site.
After: $43 million and years of renovations later, this giant space was successfully transformed into a retail space and state-of-the-art school. Ascend Charter School takes up seven floors, featuring a gym, auditorium, beautiful artwork and science labs to go with its impressive curriculum. An old space brought new life into this neighborhood, and will definitely benefit the future of local kids.
Temple University Performing Arts Center
An old church becomes a vibrant music venue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Before: From 1891 to the mid-1970s, Grace Baptist Temple thrived as a “Victorian Romanesque-revival-style” church in Philadelphia. It sat unused for 30 years, but it’s stunning structure and historical significance (Martin Luther King Jr. had made speeches in it) led to the quest for reinvention.
After: With musicals, dance events and even a TEDX conference, the renovated Lew Klein Hall has seen a ton of activity since it reopened a few years ago. The architects honored and preserved the original architecture, especially since the original vaulted ceilings created the perfect acoustics for a performance space. From a congregation to concert-goers, expect for the 1,200 seats to be filled on a regular basis.
A historic brewery now houses a social services company in Baltimore, Maryland.
Before: Built in 1887, the imposing American Brewery building operated as one of the largest in Maryland into the early 1970’s. Situated in a struggling area in East Baltimore, it became surrounded by decline and decay. In 2005, Humanim renovating the building to act as the headquarters for their social services company.
After: While the exterior was restored to it’s original glory, the interior is now home to conference rooms and work spaces lit by the large factory windows. A big eco-friendly update was made, and a lot of salvaged materials were used in construction. The designers did a great job of giving original features new functions: a grain chute hangs above a lounge area, and old brewing tanks became work centers. It seems perfect that a community service company helped to improve a neighborhood in need.
Baker’s Chocolate Factory Apartments
A chocolate factory has evolved into diverse housing in Boston, Massachusetts.
Before: Once home to the oldest chocolate producer in the United States, Baker’s Chocolate Factory doled out the sweet stuff from 1806 until 1965 when the headquarters moved elsewhere.
After: In 1983, the first renovated apartments were open to the public. In the 30-plus years since, the old factory is now home to artists lofts, affordable housing and assisted-living spaces with much of the original architectural charm. And as an added bonus, the developers were focused installing sustainable features while building. This intense undertaking has helped to revitalize a once-struggling neighborhood, while preserving its beautiful history.
The House of Air
An Army airplane hanger becomes a trampoline gym in San Francisco, California.
Before: Crissy Field began as a training airfield for the Army in 1921, but the construction of the nearby Golden Gate Bridge soon made flying conditions undesirable. After remaining unused since the 1970’s, the area started its first renovations in 2001.
After: The space has been transformed into the kind of room you can really bounce around in, while the industrial-like structure of the hangar looks right at home alongside the beams of the gym. The renovation was a smart way to use an existing space that would have been pretty troublesome to demolish, as well as respecting a historical site. And as many people have mentioned, it only seems fitting that people can literally take flight in a former airplane hangar!
The Green Exchange
A historic factory now houses 100-plus eco-friendly companies in Chicago, Illinois.
Before: As a longtime underwear factory turned lamp manufacturer, this building has seen a lot of action since being constructed in 1914. When the Frederick Cooper Lamp Company announced it was closing in 2005, the community jumped to stop it from being turned into housing (and the loss of employment that would go with it).
After: Now a “green cooperative,” The Green Exchange is home to strictly eco-friendly companies. They maintained 95 percent of the original structure in the renovation, and met super high-standards of efficient building features. It’s now a home to environmentally-repsonsible businesses, showrooms and galleries, and aims to help local and sustainble businesses make a big impact.
The Boyle Hotel
A historic hotel becomes affordable housing in Los Angeles, California.
Before: Built in 1889, the Boyle Hotel was once the tallest structure in town. Known both for its beautiful architectural detailing and association with local Mariachi bands, excessive deterioration led to a full-scale renovation.
After: You just don’t build them like this anymore! The renovations included “51 units of affordable housing, a Mariachi Cultural Center, and approximately 4,150 square feet of retail space.” The former hotel now offers permanent housing for the lower-income neighborhood, while preserving its original historic significance and appeal.
Know of any local buildings that have gone through adaptive reuse? Let us know in the comments!