Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold is quite renowned. The art form shows how a few additions help a broken item rise like a phoenix from the ashes. It is not restored to its earlier form; instead, it is transformed into a nonpareil piece of art.
Buildings have irreplaceable value in our life and history. The passage of time shrouds some of them with dereliction. In recent times many older buildings have been conserved using various methods. The addition of modern architectural interventions is one such approach. The elegant confluence in the resulting structure appears to embody the spirit of Kintsugi in architecture. Let us look at a few buildings revived with this approach.
1. Medieval Mile Museum | Older Buildings
Location: Kilkenny, Ireland
Firm: Mccullough Mulvin Architects
Kilkenny is one of the oldest medieval cities in Ireland. The Medieval mile museum was formerly St. Mary’s Church, Kilkenny. As one of the most well-conserved medieval cities of Ireland, Kilkenny showcases its rich heritage, medieval town planning, and Gaelic landmarks. The Medieval Mile Museum was designed to exhibit this rich heritage. The museum also doubles as a temporary space for cultural events.
As part of the restoration process, parts of the old church were reconstructed. The internal layout was redesigned to aid its function as a museum. The new addition was made with timber and lead. It appears to transition smoothly towards the original stone masonry of the church. Rooflights were added to enhance the layout within.
2. Elementary & Middle School Vřesovice
Location: Vřesovice, Czech Republic
Firms: Fuuze, Public Atelier
In 2013, the municipality of Vřesovice opted to convert an old rectory into a school. The conversion took place in phases. Additional buildings were added to the existing structure as per the growing spatial demands. The original building was designed in Baroque style, and there were signs of decay on the roof trusses and inner courtyard.
The traditional plastered façade of the old building coexists quite peacefully with the brightly colored contemporary additions. The new spaces incorporate copper cladding and primary colors to create a lively atmosphere for the children. The inner courtyard also went through a facelift with new landscaping and now serves as a playground.
3. Rotermann’s Old and New Flour Storage
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Firm: Hayashi – Grossschmidt Arhitektuur (HGA)
Rotermann quarter is a heritage zone within the city of Tallinn. It used to function as an industrial area focussing on food production. The quarter sports several historic limestone buildings. The old flour storage building was to be made reusable as part of a redevelopment project of Rotermann quarter. The project included the creation of a plaza. The new flour storage building was intended to assist this initiative.
New volumes were added to the existing building. The new parts utilized Cor-ten steel and glass as opposed to the limestone and brick facades of the old buildings. Despite the vast differences in the materials and façade articulations, the buildings reflect a sense of continuity.
4. Louviers Music School | Older Buildings
Location: Louviers, France
Firm: Opus 5 Architectes
In the city center of Louviers, a complex exists formerly belonging to the convent of Penitents. The group of buildings had undergone constructions and reconstructions since the 1600s. They have been catering to different functions such as a monastery, prison, and tribunal over time. The historic area went under a rehabilitation program in 2012. The objective was to transform it into a music school while preserving its archaeological and architectural value.
The architects added new volumes to the building and altered a few layouts. The new sections of the building are constructed with laminated glazed panels, stainless-steel walers, and concrete panels. The result appears like a symphony threading together the old and the new.
5. Beyazit State Library
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Firm: Tabanlioğlu Architects
The library is housed in a 16th-century building. It is a part of Beyazıt Square – an important heritage area in Istanbul. The square is a connection to various historic centers within the city. The restoration was completed in 2017. The project resulted from an initiative to reorganize the library. The multi-domed structure required prudent restoration.
The architectural intervention involved the replacement of the concrete roof covering the courtyard. The new roof is made with a transparent structure. The structure lets in filtered daylight while maintaining a controlled atmosphere in the interior. The new extension, new internal layout, and roof follow a ‘minimal intervention’ approach.
6. The Tai Kwun Art and Heritage Center
Location: Hong Kong (Sar), China
Firm: Herzog & de Meuron, Rocco Design Architects, and Purcell
The project is part of one of the largest conservation projects in the region. The building was formerly the central police station. The new additions follow a contemporary style of architecture. The historic buildings of the area are made with brick masonry. The new buildings try to follow a similar visual aesthetic by using cast aluminum cladding in grids.
The design also contributes to the formation of new public spaces and circulation networks. The architectural additions do not recreate the old architectural language; instead, it stands out and forms new relationships to the surroundings. The building now hosts some major art and cultural events.
7. Moritzburg Museum Extension | Older Buildings
Location: Halle, Germany
Firm: Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos
The castle of Moritzburg was in a state of ruin. The castle underwent many reconstructions over time. The former archbishop’s residence took up various identities before it came to house an art museum in the 19th century. An intervention in the form of an extension was undertaken in 2008. The designers faced the challenge of preserving the historic ruins while providing the contemporary facilities needed for the museum.
The intervention included the addition of an aluminum-clad roof and two vertical cores. The design of these additions is said to be inspired by paintings the museum exhibits. The intervention provided new potentials for the exhibition of art pieces while keeping the heritage value intact.
8. Alila Yangshuo Hotel
Location: Guangxi, China
Firm: Vector Architects
New life was breathed into an abandoned sugar mill from the 1960s. The site has a significant industrial heritage. The transformation of the sugar mill into a resort assured the conservation of the historic site and buildings. The scenic location and the brick masonry structures provided ample tourism potential. The refurbishment was done with a few well-thought-out strategies.
The new additions refused to replicate the original buildings. Instead, the architects recreated the architectural language with hollow concrete structures and minimal façade ornamentations. The design of a public walkway, sunken plaza, and reflecting pool helped to accentuate the aesthetic and paradisiacal quality of the project.
9. The Dovecote Studio
Location: Suffolk, United Kingdom
Firm: Haworth Tompkins
Snape Maltings is a renowned music campus in Suffolk. Derelict buildings from the industrial age were repurposed to create the campus. The firm was tasked with the renovation of one of the dilapidated structures within the campus. The Victorian-era dovecote was transformed into a functional studio space.
The process involved the insertion of a Corten steel-clad structure into the existing ruins. Though the original brick masonry was stabilized before the process, the growing vegetation was left untouched to maintain the aesthetic. The resulting russet-colored structure appears to grow from the ruins.
10. Idea Exchange Old Post Office Library | Older Buildings
Location: Cambridge, Canada
The former Post Office building in Cambridge underwent a major restoration and reuse project. The 134-year-old heritage structure was transformed into the first ‘bookless library’ in Canada. The primary step was the restoration of the old building’s stone masonry façade. The restoration was followed by the addition of a glass structure wrapping the original heritage building.
The building that had fallen into a state of decrepitude found a new purpose with this project. Studio spaces, recording suites, gaming areas, restaurant and event spaces, and the like are part of the new initiative. The architecture of the building sought to define the confluence of history and modernity. The effect is beautifully captured through the collocation of a brick and limestone structure with that of a glass and steel addition.
These are but a few examples of the magnificent approach. Antiquity and modernity coexist to bring forth a timeless quality. This is true not just for the architecture. Success is in fostering the symbiosis of this relationship. As opined by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. No thread is not a twist of these two strands.”
1.” Medieval Mile Museum Kilkenny Ireland / Mccullough Mulvin Architects” 11 Jul 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Jul 2020. <https://www.archdaily.com/875457/medieval-mile-museum-kilkenny-ireland-mccullough-mulvin-architects> ISSN 0719-8884
2.”A Czech Country Parish House Becomes a Vibrant Elementary School” 19 June 2020. Azure Magazine. Accessed 21 Jul 2020. <https://www.azuremagazine.com/article/a-czech-country-parish-house-becomes-a-vibrant-elementary-school/>
3.”Rotermann Old and New Flour Storage by Hayashi – Grossschmidt Arhitektuur” 20 February 2013. Archiscene. Accessed 21 July 2020. <https://www.archiscene.net/firms/office-buildings/rotermann-old-new-flour-storage-hayashi-grossschmidt-arhitektuur/>
4.“Musical School Louviers Extension by Opus 5” 23 March 2013. Aasarchitecture. Accessed 22 July 2020. <https://aasarchitecture.com/2013/03/musical-school-louviers-extension-by-opus-5.html/>
5.“Beyazit State Library Renovation” www.akdn.org. Accessed 22 July 2020. <https://www.akdn.org/architecture/project/beyazit-state-library-renovation>
6.”Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Art / Herzog & de Meuron” 28 Aug 2018. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 Jul 2020. <https://www.archdaily.com/898980/tai-kwun-centre-for-heritage-and-art-herzog-and-de-meuron> ISSN 0719-8884
7.”Moritzburg Museum” http://www.nietosobejano.com/. Accessed 23 Jul 2020. <http://www.nietosobejano.com/project.aspx?i=2>
8.”Moritzburg Museum Extension by Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos” 17 June 2011. Amy Frearson. Accessed 23 Jul 2020. <https://www.dezeen.com/2011/06/17/moritzburg-museum-extension-by-niento-sobejano-arquitectos/>
9.”Vector Architects converted sugar mill into Alila Yangshuo hotel” 6 December 2017. Alyn Griffiths. Accessed 23 Jul 2020. <https://www.dezeen.com/2017/12/06/vector-architects-alila-yangshuo-hotel-disuesed-sugar-mill-architecture-china/>
10.Karen Cilento. “Dovecote Studio / Haworth Tompkins” 17 Nov 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Jul 2020. <https://www.archdaily.com/89980/dovecote-studio-haworth-tompkins> ISSN 0719-8884
11.”Dovecote Studio, 2009 – the re-purposing of an industrial ruin on the coast” Haworth Tompkins. Accessed 23 Jul 2020. <https://www.haworthtompkins.com/work/dovecote-studio>
12.“A ‘bookless’ library has opened in a former post office in Ontario” Emma Tucker. The spaces. Accessed 24 Jul 2020. < https://thespaces.com/a-bookless-library-has-opened-in-a-former-post-office-in-ontario/>