With new space hard to come by, clever architects and interior designers making strides in refurbishing and repurposing old buildings and sites.
One area in which this practice is gaining traction is in the refurbishment of industrial space that has outlived its usefulness.
Rather than tearing down these older buildings and building fresh, designers are more and more often finding ways to work with the existing space, transforming it to meet new needs by turning industrial sites into office buildings or even residential buildings.
Industrial buildings are not only generally very solidly built, they also often come in aesthetically pleasing forms, allowing those looking to repurpose the space flexibility and options when it comes to making an existing site cater to new uses.
This is the case in the ‘inhabitable sculpture,’ a residential development devised by Montreal architect Jean-Maxime Labrecque. Using an old industrial space as the bones of the structure, Labrecque has managed to create a modern apartment whose function is as impressive as its form.
The structure’s aesthetic is dominated by elements that seem to almost pay homage to the building’s history, with aluminum, cement renderings and thick-rimmed black window frames standing out.
The building’s interior shares the same overall sleek aesthetic, with added unusual features such as a bathroom door that is, in all ways outside of actual function, the door to a bank vault.
Though such features might seem to lend an air of sterility to an apartment, Labrecque has added subtle touches that bring added warmth.
As much as the ‘inhabitable structure’ showcases some of the countless possibilities in repurposing industrial space for other uses, the practice does not come without its challenges.
Often, industrial sites that have outlived their usefulness have been left neglected, or were abandoned because they were becoming run-down or reaching a state of disrepair. This can add to the amount of work required to repurpose the site, adding time and money to the overall project.
Furthermore, older buildings are more likely to have hazardous contaminants and features such as outdated electrical systems and asbestos, which can be hazardous to both the crews working on the site and the site’s new inhabitants.
These buildings can also retain some of their industrial feel, making them less welcoming as a workplace or home. In these cases, architects and designers must take great pains to downplay the industrial side of things and add softer, more human touches.
Though ‘recycling’ these old buildings can be difficult, doing so can be well worth a developer’s time. In addition to the likelihood of cost savings from making use of existing structures, using existing buildings can help reduce the amount of waste created by a project.
It may not always be the simplest option for designers on the surface, but with some ingenuity and creativity, the possibilities can be vast and the challenge a worthwhile and exciting opportunity to explore new design ideas.