Through the years, the architecture of lofts has witnessed a drastic transformation. Once looked at as a space with no specific character of architecture has now become the perfect blank canvas for architects to showcase something new and out of the box. According to the dictionary definition, a loft is generally a space directly under a roof, considered a storage space or a manufacturing area, basically associated with factory spaces.
But a loft was never expected to serve as a space that could accommodate people and functionally serve other purposes because of its bland nature and lack of amenities. These former industrial spaces, after various iterations, are now operating as different spaces based on the user’s needs. And, eventually began the trend of rethinking the architecture of lofts!
Innovation in Crisis
In earlier times, people in arduous situations started to consider lofts a cheaper alternative to standard apartments. They were traditionally brick-walled buildings with exposed plumbing, whitewashed walls having enormous skylights as the only connection to the outside world, or large windows on the entire wall withholding privacy. Gradually, these so-called secluded spaces were getting filled with people who sought an area of refuge in their tough times.
And, slowly, architects and developers started to consider lofts as the future of urban growth. These spaces of unusual geometry and sometimes monumental scale gave tremendous opportunities for architects to exploit them. What began with bold and eye-captivating paintings on the external facade, today has reached a stage of sophistication and an utmost form of artistic freedom.
Crisis Creates Opportunity
Today, lofts have become much more than solitary buildings or secluded spaces because of the crisis acting as a catalyst in the transformation of lofts. When people acknowledged the abundance of artistic freedom lofts offered due to their barrier-free places, many grasped the opportunity to adapt these spaces into non-industrial purposes, responding to the surrounding context.
Here are few fascinating examples of loft transformations:
1. The Loft Gym
The open floor plan with double-height massive windows keeps the interiors always well-lit and offers the potential to convert lofts into gyms.
2. The Work Loft
The next-gen offices combine private offices, cubicles, and open plans to attain a hybrid office. An office that gives employees the autonomy to move between a range of spaces throughout the day. And, lofts having an open plan provides the opportunity to redesign or even recycle the interior spaces according to the needs and nature of the company.
3. The Loft Store
The lofts have eventually become preferred spaces for a retail environment. Thus, leading to the conversion of many lofts into shops and supermarkets.
4. The Loft Apartment
The conversion of the loft into apartments is one of the first loft renovations. The creative remodelling of the existing structure has received immense interest and enthusiasm from the people. Unlike conventional apartments, the loft apartments offer efficiently designed spaces that are flexible and simultaneously include and mingle areas of multiple functions together.
Today, people associate lofts with large adaptable spaces with endless transformation opportunities. Resultantly, reinventing lofts into buildings of different typologies based on the context and need.
Reinventing the Loft: Impact on Society
Loft buildings, which were traditionally idle industrial buildings, started to get converted into home/office buildings as an alternative solution to the homelessness of the 1970s in the United States. Eventually, a lot of developers and investors came forward to not only transform the space but also change people’s perspectives. People considered this practice a way to shoehorn people into a building originally built for a different purpose. But, with the economic decline, industries became obsolete, and slowly the production spaces (industrial lofts) were unoccupied.
For society, an abandoned building presents problems of insecurity and social uncertainty and may bring about criminality ranging from vandalism and graffiti to break-ins, illegal occupancy, and fires. At the same time, such redundant buildings also have indirect effects through the negative image that they give to the surrounding area. The solution is through the conversion of abandoned industrial buildings into usable spaces of various functions. (Daukšys et al. 27)
Also, the greener buildings are the ones that already exist as opposed to the creation of new ones. Moreover, it is cheaper to convert to new uses as compared to demolition and rebuilding. Therefore, the conversion of lofts into other accommodative spaces had a positive social, economic, and environmental impact, the three main criteria for functional change of building in an urban context.
Reinventing the Loft: A Trend that Prevailed
In this fast-paced world, with rapidly developing trends and technological advancements, the practice of rethinking the architecture of lofts has remained relevant due to its adaptive nature and concept of flexibility and variability.
Flexibility here refers to the freedom in the spatial organization the open plans of the lofts offer. And the variability in this context refers to the multi-functional aspects that this concept posits. Therefore, the transformed lofts have become the go-to spaces for the middle class and have become favoured places where people work, shop, eat, drink and live.
Daukšys, Mindaugas, et al. Complex Model for Assessment of Ex-industrial Building Conversion Options Into Lofts. JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE AND CIVIL ENGINEERING, 2014.