Adaptive reuse refers to the process of reusing an existing building for a different purpose than what it was originally designed for. As we move towards a more sustainable future, such instances can greatly transform the architectural practices of the present and future. Moreover, as several historic monuments in the country lie abandoned, mouthing their slow deaths; the strategy of adaptive reuse can provide them with a new life.

Here is a list of 10 potential sites for adaptive reuse in India-

1. Taj Mahal, Bhopal

The architectural marvel that dates back to the 19th Century, features a unique amalgamation of the British, French, Mughal, Arabic and Indian Architectural styles. The palace has 120 rooms and several underground water reservoirs. The building was handed over to the Madhya Pradesh Tourism in 2014 and was to be transformed into a luxurious hotel. Although this renovation could never take place, the decision faced sheer opposition from the heritage enthusiasts of the city. They believed that once this happened, its doors and architectural magnificence would only be open for the rich and the residents would forever lose access to a symbolic element of their city.

Taj Mahal, Bhopal - Sheet1
Taj Mahal, Bhopal ©️
Taj Mahal, Bhopal - Sheet2
Taj Mahal, Bhopal ©️
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Taj Mahal, Bhopal ©️

2. Khazanchi Haveli, Delhi

This abandoned haveli lies in the Shahjanabad region of Delhi. Located near the entrance of the Chandni Chowk, this was once home to Shah Jahan’s accountants and bookkeepers. Although once it was used to stash away the Emperor’s coins and mohurs, today it stands in a dilapidated and forgotten state, crying for attention. With its whitewashed arches now covered with black dirt and soot, once restored it can be converted into a commercial showroom of exquisite items or a fine dining restaurant in the bazaar of Chandni Chowk.

Khazanchi Haveli, Delhi - Sheet1
Haveli Khazanchi, Delhi ©️
Khazanchi Haveli, Delhi - Sheet2
Haveli Khazanchi, Delhi

3. Old Train Coaches in India

There are innumerable abandoned railway coaches in India that are classified as damaged by the railway authorities. With its ever-growing population and housing needs, these coaches might pose the solution to the problem of homelessness in the country. As some of these coaches have been converted into isolation wards instead of the current COVID-19 Pandemic, this innovative approach has brought to light the potential that these railway coaches hold.

Old Train Coaches in India - Sheet1
Old Train Coaches in India ©️
Old Train Coaches in India - Sheet2
Shan-E-Bhopal Restaurant ©️
Old Train Coaches in India - Sheet3
COVID Isolation Wards ©️

4. Shaukat Mahal, Bhopal

This palace was built as a wedding gift to Sikander Jehan Begum in the 1830s. It is believed that the palace was designed by a Frenchman who was a descendant of the royal Bourbon Dynasty of France. Consequently, this historic landmark combines Indo- Saracenic and Rocco Architectural styles and is one of the few buildings of India to have had a French influence in its characteristics. Currently, the building lies abandoned in the heart of the city, with its stained-glass windows shattered and broken. The palace, if restored, can be converted into an exhibition space or a vintage marriage garden, like the other historic buildings in its proximity.

Shaukat Mahal, Bhopal - Sheet1
Shaukat Mahal, Bhopal ©️
Shaukat Mahal, Bhopal - Sheet2
Shaukat Mahal, Bhopal ©️
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Shaukat Mahal, Bhopal ©️

5. Ross Island, Andaman and Nicobar

Ross Island was set up by the British for administration after they gained control of the Andamans. Today this island lies abandoned as all of its residents were evacuated in the 1940s because of an earthquake. The remains of the British Architecture on the island are now home to several species of birds and animals that roam around freely in the abandoned quarters covered with peepal and serie trees. Although this island has now become a tourist destination, the biodiversity that has developed on the island should be preserved. This can be done by converting the island into a wildlife sanctuary, that both preserves wildlife and is open to tourists.

Ross Island, Andaman and Nicobar - Sheet1
Ross Island ©️
Ross Island, Andaman and Nicobar - Sheet2
Ross Island ©️
Ross Island, Andaman and Nicobar - Sheet3
Ross Island ©️

6. Janak Taal, Gwalior

This Taal in Gwalior was built in the 17th Century A.D. in the memory of Raja Jankoji Rao Scindia. This highly mesmerizing water body along with its architecture was built as a recreational palace for the members of the royal family, in the outskirts of the city. In today’s date, the taal has lost all of its former glory and has merely been reduced into a dump yard for the waste from nearby houses. The water body if cleaned can be converted into a modern open-air theatre or even a boat club in Gwalior.

Janak Taal, Gwalior - Sheet1
Jank Taal, Gwalior ©️Rishika Sood
Janak Taal, Gwalior - Sheet2
Jank Taal, Gwalior ©️Rishika Sood
Janak Taal, Gwalior - Sheet3
Jank Taal, Gwalior ©️Rishika Sood

7. The Wadas of Pune

The Wadas were at one time the symbol of the architectural magnificence of the city of Pune. But as the 19th Century witnessed the expansion of the city, these Wadas lost their traditional importance. While some of these structures have been lovingly maintained by their owners, others have not been so fortunate. As they lie in a dilapidated and forgotten, inching towards oblivion, these must be restored and put to some use either residential or commercial.

The Wadas of Pune - Sheet1
Wada, Pune
The Wadas of Pune - Sheet2
Wada, Pune
The Wadas of Pune - Sheet3
Wada, Pune

8. Esplanade Mansion, Mumbai

Formerly known as the luxurious “Watson Hotel”, this mansion was constructed by John Watson in 1871. Even though it is the first cast-iron building of India, the Watson Hotel is in the list of “The most endangered Heritage sites in the world.” The Authorities consider that the condition of the building is now beyond repair and have nominated it for demolition. This decision has upset the heritage enthusiasts of the city who firmly believe that the building should be restored and put to some use.

Esplanade Mansion, Mumbai - Sheet1
Esplanade Mansion, Mumbai ©️
Esplanade Mansion, Mumbai - Sheet2
Esplanade Mansion, Mumbai ©️
Esplanade Mansion, Mumbai - Sheet3
Esplanade Mansion, Mumbai ©️

9. Clive House, Kolkata

Named after Robert Clive, Clive’s house is probably the oldest heritage monument of Calcutta. Currently preserved by the ASI, it is in today’s date abandoned and considered haunted by the residents. This building holds great potential and should be reused adaptively.

Clive House, Kolkata - Sheet1
Clive House, Kolkata ©️
Clive House, Kolkata - Sheet2
Clive House, Kolkata ©️com
Clive House, Kolkata - Sheet3
Clive House, Kolkata ©️com

10. The Old Mills, Mumbai

In the early 19th Century, Industrialists saw huge profits in the textile business and set up several mills in Mumbai. The Girangaon region of the city soon came to be known as the “Village of Mills” as it advanced to become one of the world’s largest textile industries. But in today’s date, most of these are not functional and lie abandoned. These can thus be restored and used for an alternate purpose.

The Old Mills, Mumbai - Sheet1
Mumbai Mills ©️
The Old Mills, Mumbai - Sheet2
Mumbai Mills ©️
The Old Mills, Mumbai - Sheet3
Mumbai Mills ©️



Rishika Sood is a student of architecture, currently in her third year. She has a keen interest in exploring buildings and aspires to work towards the conservation of historic monuments. She is particularly drawn indigenous art, craft and lives of the craftsmen associated with it.