“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness”. Frank O Gehry’s idea of timelessness resonates in the form of heritage and historical buildings. These buildings open the portals to an unexplored glorious realm i.e. the past, while acting as a bridge to an unknown reality, the future.
However, a lot of historical buildings are often abandoned in a dilapidated state owing to social, cultural and demographic shifts apart from the escalating costs of maintenance. No longer suitable to serve their original functions, architects have breathed new life into such forsaken structures by revamping the interiors. Repurposing the interiors adds a modern touch while maintaining the historical significance of the structure.
With the industrial revolution in the 19th century, the demand for mills, factories, and powerhouses rose exponentially. What followed was the great commercial building boom of the 20th century, rendering those buildings obsolete after a certain period of time. This gave birth to the movement to legally protect heritage buildings, beginning in America in the 1960s. The first step in this initiative was to convert old wooden homes into country inns and restaurants.
1. Port Authority, Antwerp, Belgium | Historical Buildings
A competition was launched in 2007 to build new office space for the Belgian Port Authority in Antwerp without demolishing the derelict fire station existing on-site. Zaha Hadid Architects won the competition and designed it in two parts namely the reuse of the erstwhile fire station and installation of a beam shaped structure above it.
The new extension points towards the Scheldt, connecting the building with the river on which Antwerp was founded. The reflective triangular elements placed at different angles with respect to each other emanate ripples like waves due to the changing tones of the city sky. The courtyard of the fire station was converted into the reception space enclosed in a glass roof.
The 18th-century Convent built by Franciscan priests in Catalan in Santpedor, Spain was sacked in 1835. After years of deterioration, only the Church remained in 2000, that too in ruins. Soon, a project was commissioned to convert the Church into an auditorium and a multicultural centre. In future, the third phase would use the upper stories of the chapel as historical archives.
The design was centred around the spatial quality of the otherwise unkempt interiors. Stairs, ramps and a skylight were added along with an inviting entrance.
3. The Green Building, Louisville, Kentucky | Historical Buildings
The Green Building in the East Market District in NuLu or New Louisville is the first commercial Platinum LEED-certified building and also Kentucky’s first Platinum LEED adaptive reuse structure. The building was part of a 1000 acre Royal land grant offered to Col. William Preston for his services in the French and Indian War.
In 1815, his son moved to Louisville from Virginia island and subsequently, the property was annexed by the city of Louisville in 1827. It functioned as a commercial in 1855 followed by a mill supply a decade later and a Goodwill till 1977. After years of misuse, Gill Holland and Augusta Brown Holland purchased the building in 2007.
Doug Pierson of (fer) Studios is responsible for revamping a 115-year former dry goods store into a mixed-use commercial centre. Housing a gallery, event space, offices and restaurant spaces, the building is a hotspot for arts and sustainability today, breathing back life into a rather dead locality.
The Detroit Foundation Hotel, a 100 room hotel is housed in the former Detroit Fire Department Headquarters built in 1929 and the adjacent Pontchartrain Wine Cellars. The approach was “Coming Home to Detroit”, to commemorate the past and embrace the future of Detroit. Following the theme, the arches on the terracotta facade of the Neoclassical building along with the red fire engine doorway have been preserved.
Right from the brass metal rail system in the open display kitchen to the smoke shaped chandelier in the dining lounge, the interiors helmed by the Simeone Deary Design Group represent moments in Detroit’s history. At the same time, modern finishes and furnishings strike a balance between the new and the old.
5. Tate Modern, London | Historical Buildings
The most visited Modern Art Museum today, Tate Modern is housed in the Bankside Power Station. The power station was built in two phases between 1947 and 1963 by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. In 1994, the Tate launched a competition to redesign the power station as an art gallery which was redundant since 1981.
Among the 150 00dd entries, the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron and Jose Rafael Moneo Arquitecto were declared the winners because of their reimagination of the power station as a public space while leveraging the historical context. The 35m high turbine hall now serves as a grand entrance and display areas while the boiler rooms are the galleries. The oil tanks were opened as galleries in 2012.
The horizontal light beam on top of the room contrasts the verticality of the chimney and the glass beam stands out in the original steel and brick facade. The modern context of the interiors, however, is on the lines of the theme of the industrial setting with heavy railings, cast iron grills and unfinished wood floor.
6. The Delhi Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda Art District, Mumbai
Stretching from Regal Circle to the southern end of MG Road, the Kala Ghoda Art District is a cultural hub offering art, education, history and fine dining housed in colonial structures. One such highlight is the Delhi Art Gallery by Morphogenesis at the char-rasta. When awarded the project, the building was in a dilapidated state beyond recognition after years of neglect of the former warehouse.
The idea was to develop a minimalist contemporary art gallery while restoring the heritage in a non-anachronistic way. The original wrought iron and stucco on the facade were retained while other parts were revamped, drawing motifs from the surrounding colonial-era structures. Of the four floors, the first two are the gallery spaces while the two remaining floors host the gallery’s permanent collection, a sculpture courtyard cum auditorium, private lounges and gallery offices.
7. Jehan Numa Palace, Bhopal
A seamless amalgamation of British Colonial, Italian Renaissance, and Classical Greek architecture, the Jehan Numa Palace in central India witnessed a series of functions carried out within its walls beginning from the office for General Obaidullah Khan in1890, to a government hostel followed by the office of the Geological Survey of India till 1981 before opening up as a luxury hotel in 1983.
The extensions to the original palace were carried out at different times, yet all draw from the European architectural styles to generate uniformity. While it boasts state of the art facilities like swimming pools, riding tracks, restaurants, bars and spas, the rich history of the Begums of Bhopal echoes in the modern interiors.
8. Soro Village Pub, Goa | Historical Buildings
“Our work draws significantly from the local culture and context while having an inherent clean, functional, modern expression that leverages the use of local, eco-friendly materials and techniques.” – Raya Shankhwalker
The Soro Village Pub by Raj Shankhwalker Architects located in Assagao, Goa in India. ‘Soro’, Konkani for an alcoholic beverage, is housed in the ruins of a former corner store. The Concept of the pub is based on the typical design of a warehouse in the 1940s. Most of the original structure has been retained including the external walls from which the plaster has come off.
The dilapidated walls may pass off as a humble entrance but open up to vibrant hip interiors. The vintage graffiti helmed by Patanga Arts complement the bold compositions on the customised cement tiles. The idea of an industrial warehouse is further reinforced by the exposed electrical wires and ducts.
9. Haveli Dharampura, Delhi
Nestled in the busy streets of Chandni Chowk in New Delhi, Haveli Dharampura is one among the many Havelis that came up in the late Mughal period. The fate of this derelict mansion was turned over by a team spearheaded by Architect Kapil Aggarwal, initiated by Rajya Sabha member Vijay Goel. The idea was to bring together the traditional style of the haveli and contemporary architectural styles to appeal to Indians and foreigners alike.
The building was strengthened structurally while the second and third floor was built again in the same fashion using modern materials. The interiors consolidate the Rajasthani, Mughal and European styles of architecture with world-class facilities.
10. The Calcutta Bungalow, Kolkata | Historical Buildings
With its diverse heritage structures from different eras, thanks to a rich cultural heritage, the city of Kolkata has an old school charm to it. Entrepreneurs Iftekhar Ahsan and Chris Chen identified one such residence built in 1926 in the classical style which they revived asThe Calcutta Bungalow, a heritage bed and breakfast with the help of multidisciplinary art and design practitioner Swarup Dutta.
Old items were upscaled, wood and iron came from other collapsed buildings in the city and the exposed brick wall used the traditional lime mortar with jaggery and fenugreek seeds among other food items in its mix. The functional typewriters in each room compliment the theme of an upper-middle-class household in the early 1900s, the golden era in Kolkata’s construction history.
11. Conservatorium, Amsterdam
This hotel, nestled in the Museumplein in Amsterdam, is built in a former music school which was actually built as the Rijkspostspaarbank (Dutch Savings Bank) by architect Daniel Knuttel at the end of the 19th century. After the Mamilla Hotel, this was the second hotel where Lissoni Associati and MVSA Architects collaborated.
The neo-gothic structure was retained while new additions were made including the covered interior courtyard made entirely of glass. The classical furniture by designers such as Hans J. Wegner and Poul Kjaerholm blend with the modern furniture designed by Piero Lissoni himself including Cassina, Living Divani and Kartell. Additional furniture was designed specifically for the project.
12. Biome Environmental Solution, Bangalore
The office of Biome Environmental Solutions in Bangalore, Karnataka is built over an old residential building. The owners wanted to rent out the upper storey as it wasn’t used by them. An additional floor was to be added without hampering the residence itself. Keeping in mind that the foundation was old, the additional floor was built using light materials with steel columns supporting a metal roof.
The materials from the building were reused including the debris from the waterproofing layer which stands as mud concrete wall now, acting as a screen between the model making area and approach to the toilets.
13. Converted Chapel on Hill, North Pennines, England | Historical Buildings
The desolate chapel in village Forest-in-Teesdale, North Pennines stood abandoned for over forty years before being converted into a residence by Evolution Designs. The exterior was retained while the interiors were redesigned tastefully for a modern home. Exposure to harsh climatic conditions rendered the interior finishes inoperative and the rafters in the roof also required replacement.
The holiday home won the United Kingdom Property Awards, and the Daily Telegraph Homebuilding and Renovating Award for Best Conversion.
14. Cat Hill Barn in Sheffield, England
The Cat Hill Barn is a 16th-century barn that has been converted into a contemporary home in the rolling hills of Yorkshire in Sheffield. Keeping the exterior intact, the floor plan was kept open, free from any compartmentalisation to respect the splendour of the original barn.
The modern design is developed in a way to incorporate the erstwhile trusses as part of the process. The large picture windows offer panoramic views of the countryside.
15. Factory Jaffa House, Tel Aviv, Israel | Historical Buildings
Today a residence, the Jaffa House located in Kasbah in Jaffa city in Tel Aviv overlooking the Jaffa harbour. It is believed that this building underwent restoration in the 17th century when the city of Jaffa was resettled. The original materials were exposed and the stone arches and vaults were included in the design.
The space was divided into two sections—one with a crossed vault ceiling which serves as the individual bedroom separated by a glass panel, optionally used as a guest room. The other, a semi-public area comprising a work area and guest bathroom, acts as the junction between the upper sections of the structure via a staircase at its end.
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