Back to the future with adaptive reuse

I have always been fascinated with (and passionate about) old buildings, their architecture and history. There is definitely something very humbling about the majestic heights of old European cathedrals and castles, cities built hundreds of years ago and still standing and functioning. Well - don’t get me wrong: I understand that it takes a great effort to preserve and protect these structures! After all, I was born and grew up in Europe and I work in the construction industry.

And as many Europeans do, I also love modern design and furniture - I will take any of Dame Zaha Hadid’s designs on any day of the week. To some, the modern feels cold and impersonal, almost too “sterile” to live in. I would almost agree, except … when we properly incorporate these contemporary pieces within historical spaces, it all somehow comes alive. On both ends. The old is embracing the new, the new is respectful of the old.

Cannot help it but reminds of times my grandmother held my sister’s babies … she was nearly 90 years old and these were her great-grandchildren. Yet, such a perfectly natural fit: they were part of her and she was part of them. And always will be.

And it is perhaps because of this distant (yet still warm) memory that I get excited and want to get involved whenever I see a historic building being renovated and re-purposed. I love to look for the history - old factories where inventions came to life, churches where kings were crowned and weddings and christenings happened. And I love to experience the conversion into rustic modern condos, museums, restaurants. So much so that now my friends and family forward me pictures and articles of projects under way in their areas; some even ask me to get involved.

I hope this trend of adaptive reuse is here to stay for a long time, as forms of historic preservation and recycling. Yes, I said recycling. Alternatively and in compromise – because it is not always feasible (economically, ecologically or otherwise) to salvage old structures – let’s not just give way to another cookie-cutter development (merely utilitarian); let’s have the urban planning committees and developers commit to higher standards and allow architects to be involved in the designing process. Let’s make future generations proud of our work and craftsmanship, giving them reasons to preserve our buildings.


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