10 Inspiring Examples of Adaptive Reuse Projects

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At Urban Ghosts we acknowledge and celebrate progress but nevertheless hate to see (often beautiful) historical buildings demolished, whether or not they’re abandoned, beyond economical repair or unable to fulfill their original roles in a 21st century world. That’s why we advocate adaptive reuse, the process of adapting buildings and objects for purposes other than those for which they were designed, giving them a new lease of life, reducing urban sprawl and preserving history in a functional way. This article features 10 clever examples of adaptive reuse, from the grand and ambitious to the small and charming. (And here are 10 more!)

Former Victorian Toilet Transformed into Sandwich Shop

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attendant-6 (All images by Attendant (via Facebook), reproduced with permission)

Aptly named Attendant, this abandoned Victorian toilet has been converted into one of London’s most unique sandwich shops. Adaptive reuse at its best, the repurposed subterranean property, which was built in 1890 and closed for 50 years, retains many of its original features from white Victorian tiles to ornate public urinals between which customers eat their sandwiches and sip their lattes. Located at 27a Foley Street, Attendant offers free wi-fi and artisanal snacks in quirky surroundings. (Read more.)

Proposal to Turn Abandoned Italian Railway Viaduct into Apartments

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railway-viaduct-adaptive-reuse-eco-homes-3 (Images: OXO Architects)

Irrespective of whether or not it’s practical, we love this concept! A competition for the regeneration of an abandoned railway viaduct in Italy led to a design for modern homes dubbed an ‘inverted high-rise’ by its architects. Naturally, the former trackbed would be converted into a road for ease of access, and the futuristic looking apartments would be accessed from above. Large tanks would collect rainwater and the viaduct’s proximity to Mount Etna would, we are told, allow for a geothermal energy system using water on hot rock to produce steam to power generators. The conceptual design won a bronze Holcim award in 2011 but only time will reveal what comes of it. (Read more.)

Vintage British Bus Becomes New Orleans Pool House

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routemaster-bus-new-orleans-pool-house-3 (Images: via Apartment Therapy)

Adaptive reuse isn’t confined to buildings, and can incorporate any object, from vehicles and vessels to humble shipping pallets and more. In this example, a vintage Bristol Lodekka bus that once carried passengers across cities in Scotland has found its way to New Orleans, where it now serves as the pool house of artist Miranda Lake. The double-decker retro-refurb has been described as “one big shiny, giant happy pill you can actually get inside of.” Stripped of its former livery and adorned inside and out with flowers, simple furniture and sun loungers, the repurposed Bristol Lodekka adds plenty of character to its peaceful surroundings. (Read more.)

Spectacular Bookshop Inside Former 13th Century Church

Selexyz-Dominicanen-bookshop (Image: Bert Kaufmann, cc-3.0)

Located in the Netherlands city of Maastricht, this stunning 700-year-old church was left to fall into disrepair for two centuries before it was converted into what must be one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops. In a visionary adaptive reuse effort, the neglected 13th century church became Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen, where striking medieval features coexist alongside three storeys of fashionable black steel shelving, walkways and furniture envisioned by Amsterdam-based architects Merkx+Girod. A must-see attraction in historic Maastricht, the church was built in 1294 and closed 500 years later during Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of 1794. Throughout the centuries since, the structure served as a warehouse and (surely the most impressive) bike shed (ever built) before its transformation into Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen. (Read more.)

Repurposed Nazi Flak Towers in Germany and Austria

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flak-tower-vienna-climbing-wall (Images: Miroslav Petrasko, cc-nc-nd-3.0German Federal Archives, cc-sa-3.0 DEAnna Regelsberger, public domain)

During World War Two, these massive flak towers were used by Nazi Germany to counter incoming aerial attacks from allied bombers. As such, they were equipped with an impressive arsenal of weaponry, throwing their fearsome ordnance thousands of feet into the skies above cities like Berlin and Vienna. In more recent times, their massive scale has made them ideally suited to a variety of adaptive reuse projects. One flak tower in Hamburg now houses a music school, nightclub and shops. Meanwhile, the L-Tower of Flakturm V, Stiftskaserne, in Vienna now boasts an aquarium and cafe, while other abandoned fortifications have found new life as climbing walls. (Read more.)

Penarth Pool: From Abandoned Victorian Baths to Modern Home

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penarth-swimming-baths-abandoned (Images: Wales Online, reproduced with permission; Ben Salter, cc-3.0)

The UK is home to some beautiful abandoned swimming pools of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. But while many linger in dereliction for years before the inevitable wrecking ball strikes, Penarth Pool in Wales was destined to become a luxury home. The new owners may not have a swimming pool, but they do live in one, and it retains many of its original 19th century features and decorative brickwork. The house, which overlooks Penarth’s Art Deco pier, is actually four separate properties converted in 2005 by businessman Paul Smith. The main home went on the market in 2012 for £1.2 million due to its high quality, sympathetic conversion and seafront position. (Read more.)

Futuristic Library Made From Recycled Aircraft Fuselages

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new-jalisco-library-guadalajara-mexico (Images: LOT-EK)

Aircraft boneyards across the world are littered with the aluminium hulks of abandoned airliners waiting to be turned into Coke cans. Back in 2006, award-winning New York design studio LOT-EK submitted plans to reuse over 200 discarded Boeing 727 and 737 fuselages in the construction of the new Jalisco Library in Guadalajara, Mexico. Even though their radical, energy-efficient design didn’t win, it was an inspired proposal that could be employed elsewhere. And after all, there’s no shortage of abandoned aircraft strewn across the continents. (Read more.)

Crumbling Pig Barn Transformed into Modern Dwelling

(Images: FNP Architeckten, reproduced with permission)

The owner of this 18th century pig barn in Germany wanted to convert the abandoned building into a showroom. But damage sustained during World War Two meant that any renovation effort would be unjustifiably expensive. An innovative solution came via design firm FNP Architekten, calling for a “house within a house” to both conserve the historic outward appearance of the centuries-old barn while preventing the crumbling structure from collapsing. Architects formulated a wooden insert which fits snugly inside the outer walls and lines up precisely with the original windows. The result: a clever example of adaptive reuse to inspire the functional conservation of other abandoned agricultural buildings. (Read more.)

Primitive Methodist Chapels Becomes Functional Garage

(Images: Richard Croft; Kate Nicol; cc-sa-4.0)

Okay, so it’s not the most exciting! But this Primitive Methodist chapel repurposed as a simple garage is still a great example of adaptive reuse. Located in Normanby-le-Wold by the 147-mile-long Viking Way footpath connecting the Humber Bridge in north Lincolnshire to Oakham in Rutland, the previously abandoned building was one of numerous small chapels and refuges used by travellers who roamed the country lanes of the British Isles. The conversion offers a creative solution to not just preserving an import yet small part of the area’s rural history, but giving it a modern function too. (Read more.)

Decommissioned Boeing 747 Becomes Jumbo Hostel

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What could be more suited to an airport hostel than a converted Jumbo Jet? Those planning on spending a night at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport can do so at the Jumbo Hostel, a decommissioned Boeing 747 which opened for business in 2008. The massive aircraft had been built for Singapore Airlines and later flew with Pan Am and Transjet, a Swedish airline that went bankrupt in 2002. The Jumbo’s 450 seats were then stripped out, its interior was thoroughly sanitized and 79 beds were installed throughout more than two dozen bedrooms, not including the exclusive ‘cockpit suite’ on the upper deck, which comes complete with en suite bathroom. Flat screen TVs and wireless broadband come as standard, while guests and non-guests alike can enjoy a bite to eat in the Jumbo Hostel’s cafe, located in the nose. With its massive undercarriage secured in steel cables, the adapted 747 takes pride of place at the airport’s entrance. (Read more.)

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