Monday, August 1, 2011

Giving Old Buildings New Life

Beautiful abandoned buildings can break your heart. Often carefully crafted in a more sturdy age, they serve as reminders of our failure to reach collective dreams. But it’s not necessary to abandon buildings if they can be creatively reworked into new economic and cultural environments. Two of my favorite examples are in Baltimore and Detroit:


John K. King Used & Rare Books in downtown Detroit is housed in an old four-story glove factory. My friend A. introduced me to this place and said he could get lost in here for hours.



Downtown Baltimore’s Pratt Street Power Plant used to run the city’s street cars in the early 1900s but later fell into disuse. It took a few failed attempts to develop the site before reaching its current incarnation as a Barnes & Noble bookstore, restaurants and art gallery. The four stacks rising from the top of the building run down right through the center of the store. By far the coolest B&N I’ve ever been in.

While we’re on the topic of books, here’s another cool bookstore inside a 13th century (!) cathedral in Maastricht:

Architect Ricardo Bofill converted an old cement factory in Barcelona into a multiuse office/residential/gallery space:


Kate Carmichael talks about converting old spaces into new theaters in Britain and finds that repurposing is an old idea:
You might think that converting theatres is a modern phenomenon but the conversion of buildings to theatres can be traced back to medieval times – even as the idea of the theatre as a distinct building type developed, the Teatro Olimpico at Vicenza (1580) was created within the shell of a medieval fortress.
And this seems a bit creepy, but Germany is turning an unfinished nuclear plant into an amusement park:

After being built for 8 billion deutsche marks (€4.1 billion; $5.9 billion), the complex known locally as "der BrĂ¼ter" ("the breeder") was destined never to go online. In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, it stood idle for years because nobody wanted to have anything to do with the enormous mountain of concrete.

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