Restoration projects in architecture are undertaken to sustain the heritage value of the structure and to preserve the creative integrity of its creators. The concept of restoration, although intended for minimal intervention from architects, presents the challenge of re-creating and reviving spaces from its time of creation. This would call for a multi-faceted team of structural engineers, craftsmen and architects performing a detailed study of the history and construction principles used then to carefully replicate the physical fabric and essence of the structure such that it simultaneously fits into modern narratives.

Braving the demanding trials of sands of time, the following historic structures make up for some of the best restoration projects taken by renowned architects.

1. Antwerp Port House by Zaha Hadid

The Antwerp Port House, Europe’s second-largest shipping port, employs over 500 staff members who were working at different sites across the Belgian city. In 2007, the port authorities called out for the relocation of their office to an old fire station in Kattendijk dock. The restoration project aimed to provide unified accommodation for its employees that would align with their interests in future expansion. 

Zaha Hadid Architects had proposed an extension that was to be seated on top of the roof of the existing fire station. The dynamic form possesses a clear cut geometric volume that is accentuated by a triangular glass façade. All in all, the design adds a new dimension to the site, a signature aspect to every Zaha Hadid structure.

Antwerp Port House by Zaha Hadid - Sheet1

The façade of the pre-existing fire station is retained because of its much valued historic importance.

Antwerp Port House by Zaha Hadid - Sheet2
©Tata Steel Construction

The Kattendijk dock offered many benefits as a site of construction, owing to its waterways that allowed transportation of materials and components required for construction. 

Antwerp Port House by Zaha Hadid - Sheet3
Interiors of the Gallery of Antwerp Port House ©Pinterest

2. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Frank Gehry

Built-in 1928, the popular art museum just completed its renovation in 2017 as a part of The Core Project, the first phase of the wider Facilities Master Plan designed by Gehry. The museum authorities aimed for a design that upholds the cultural integrity of the structure and facilitated access to certain spaces that were restricted before. 

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Frank Gehry - Sheet1

The first phase marked the addition of new interactive spaces such as, the restoration of the street-level side entrance that remained unused for 40 years, a new espresso bar, bookstore and restored vaulted corridor.  

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©The Art Newspaper

The project retained the use of the New Kasota limestone from Minnesota quarries for walls and floors – the same specific kind used originally in the 1920s.

3. Taj Falaknuma Palace, Rahul Mehrotra

With an optimistic vision to restore the dilapidated palaces of Falaknuma and Chowmahalla, Princess Esra Jah, the former wife of the eighth Nizam of Hyderabad reached out to architect Rahul Mehrotra to execute the prestigious project. Artisans, historians, structural engineers worked over 6 years to restore the palaces to energy-efficient structures that could host and cater to modern-day activities for the public.

While the Chowmahalla Palace functions as a museum that has over 5000 visitors on regular weekends, the Falaknuma Palace, extensively built-in Italian marble, is now a luxe heritage hotel operating under the Taj Group.

Taj Falaknuma Palace, Rahul Mehrotra
©Greaves India

The palace belonged to the era of Nizams of the colonial Hyderabad state and even hosted the British royalty.

4. Fondacodei Tedeschi, OMA (The Office for Metropolitan Architecture)

Built-in 1228, the iconic structure has been altered over time and was lastly re-constructed in the 1930s. In 2009, OMA was reached out to take up the restoration of the historic complex in Venice after which TAArchitettura S.r.l. and Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli took the pristine project on themselves. 

Fondacodei Tedeschi, OMA (The Office for Metropolitan Architecture) - Sheet1

The project aimed to constructively use the vast spaces of Fondacodei Tedeschi so that it could now function as a departmental store and an ambient social-hub for tourists. Most of the elements of this historic marvel and the layout of spaces has been retained while the project also includes the addition of a large wooden terrace and few entrances. 

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The restoration design incorporates wooden panels, glass mirrors and golden metallic work that accentuates the rusty terracotta interiors of the complex. 

Fondacodei Tedeschi, OMA (The Office for Metropolitan Architecture) - Sheet3

The project also managed to restore a 19th-century pavilion, giving a modern identity with the use of steel and glass on its floors. This space is meant to accommodate social events.

5. Royal Opera House, Abha Narain Lambah

The Royal Opera house in Mumbai now accommodates visitors to experience music shows and stand-up events in a Victorian setting with its baroque features and elaborate Corinthian pillars, all of which have now been successfully restored. 

A collaborative project by the Maharashtrian government and conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah, the structure was stabilized and open to the public by late2016. Abha has also taken up multiple reputable restoration projects such as Ajanta Caves in Allahabad, The Golconda Fort in Hyderabad, and so on.

The six-year restoration project of this mighty complex that belonged to the Gondal royalty went on to bag the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2017.

Royal Opera House, Abha Narain Lambah
©Architectural Digest India

The complex now accommodates a cafe along with a fine dining restaurant making it the perfect space for networking events. 

6. Bourse de Commerce, Tadao Ando 

The restoration of the 18th-century stock exchange building to an art museum is an ongoing collaboration project between prestigious construction and architecture firms – Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, Niney et Marca Architectes, the Pierre-Antoine Gatier architecture agency and building engineering consultant Setec Bâtiment. Ando has integrated the existing form of the structure into his design which also implements the addition of a meditation room and a basement level auditorium.

Located in Paris, the art museum marked the second collaboration project commissioned by Francis Pinault and assigned to Tadao Ando, the first one being The Palazzo Grassi.

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©The Guardian

The design conserves its historical elements most of which are murals depicting the 17th-century trade scenario between 5 continents. These murals along with intricate carvings adorn the underside of the skylight dome.

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As of now, the former exterior fabric of the building is restored and the concrete walls for the cylindrical structure that hosts seven galleries are constructed. 

7. The Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi, Tadao Ando

The Palazzo Grassi was constructed in a Venetian Classical style in 1772 and was owned by many over the years, some of whom belonged to the Cini and Grassi family. 

In 2005, the house was bought by François Pinault, a wealthy French entrepreneur, and was later restored to a contemporary art museum along with Punta Della Dogana in 2009. This project that involved re-modeling and restoration of both the structures was assigned to Tadao Ando. 

The Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi, Tadao Ando - Sheet1

Much later in 2013, Ando had restored the Teatrino of Palazzo Grassi to an auditorium that could provide for 225 visitors. The re-design takes consideration spaces for technological equipment to facilitate cultural workshops, conferences and meetings. 

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The Teatrino originally intended to serve as a garden space, now is revamped with curved concrete walls and triangular skylights.

8. The spire of Notre Dame, Philippe Villeneuve 

After the catastrophic fires in 2019, The popular tourist attraction, Notre Dame, built in medieval Paris, is now being restored under a propitious project that aims to restore vaults and gables and rebuild its roof and spires. 

The cathedral’s spire was first constructed in the 13th century only to be destroyed and removed in the 18th century and was redesigned later by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. The French Government and chief architect Philippe Villeneuve have proposed a dutiful restoration of the spire to its previous Gothic design. The restoration is expected to be complete before the 2024 Olympics that will be held in Paris.

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The spire of Notre Dame, Philippe Villeneuve  - Sheet2

Notre Dame pictured before (left) and after (right) the tragic fires in 2019.

9. Tammany Hall, BKSK Architects

The restoration and refurbishment of the Tammany Hall were taken up by BKSK architects who accomplished the preservation of its two brick facades and even an addition of a contemporary three-storey-glass and steel dome. 

Tammany Hall, BKSK Architects - Sheet1
©BKSK Architects

The dome draws inspiration from a turtle’s shell and is meant to symbolize the legacy of an indigenous group, namely Lenape. BKSK Architects after holding discussions with the Lenape Centre sought a design that upholds the legacy and culture of the community. 


Tammany Hall, BKSK Architects - Sheet2
©BKSK Architects

The new design makes use of glass and steel panels along with grey terracotta sunshades in the restoration of hipped roofs. 

10. Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Fountain and Clock Tower, Vikas Dilawari

Taken up by conservation architect Vikas Dilawari, the ambitious project restored the building’s drinking water fountain along with its intricate facade that donned various elements from Persian architecture. Dilawari has played a vital role in restoring a good amount of Indo- Saracenic heritage structures in and around Mumbai, including the Mulji Jetha Fountain and Wellington Fountain. 

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©Trip Advisor

The clock tower was first set upright in 1882 to honor Bomonjee Hormarjee Wadia, a Parsi philanthropist who contributed to the noble cause of education in the city.

Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Fountain and Clock Tower, Vikas Dilawari - Sheet2
©Bombaywalla Historical Works

The tower stands tall in its Parsi glory exhibiting an elaborate lamassus along with its other ornate carvings.


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