Jul 223 min read

World’s most Unique Adaptive Reuse Buildings designed by Architects!

written by

Nishita Verma

Modern architects face increasing pressure to prioritize sustainable design, leading to revolutionary eco-friendly architecture. However, even the most energy-efficient buildings take around 20 to 30 years to overcome their climate impact from construction, as per the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As environmental sustainability becomes a prevailing theme in the 21st century, innovative methods for repurposing buildings are emerging worldwide. Adaptive reuse offers a green and resourceful middle ground, considering how existing structures can adapt to changing demands rather than resorting to demolition or unsuitable adaptations.

1. Book Tower (Detroit, Michigan)

imageSource: Bedrock Detroit

Completed in 1926, Detroit's Book Tower was once the city's tallest building, envisioned by the Book brothers to meet the growing demand for office and residential space. After facing a decline in the 1960s, the building underwent a $300 million restoration by Bedrock Real Estate, transforming it into 229 residential units, 117 extended-stay accommodations, and 52,000 square feet of office and retail space. With the expertise of Kraemer Design Group for historic preservation and New York firm ODA for architecture and interior renovation, the iconic glass atrium was faithfully recreated and expanded based on a few historic photos.

2. Canfranc Estación Hotel (Canfranc, Spain)

imageSource: Manolo Yllera

Canfranc Estación, once a thriving rail hub, had its grand opening in 1928 with esteemed guests like the President of the French Republic and the King of Spain. However, its bustling days were short-lived, and the station ceased operations in 1970 due to misfortunes such as a fire, train derailment, and a tainted reputation from World War II espionage activities. Now, the Bárcelo Hotel Group has breathed new life into this abandoned space. While retaining the station's façade, they transformed the interiors into an elevated, nostalgic atmosphere, offering 104 rooms and inviting common areas. Officially reopened in January 2023, the rebranded space embraces its heritage, welcoming guests once more, almost a century after its initial inauguration.

3. Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (Hamburg, Germany)

imageSource: Chapeaux Marc/AGF/Getty Images

The Elbphilharmonie Hamburg is not just a concert hall but also houses 45 private apartments, restaurants, a spa, and a public viewing area with panoramic city views. Originally constructed in 1963 as Kaispeicher A, a warehouse, the building now features a modern glassy structure with dramatic swooping curves on the rooftop. The 1.3 million square feet space includes three world-class concert venues with optimized acoustics, thanks to acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota's collaboration with the architects, utilizing 10,000 individually shaped gypsum fiber panels.

4. Liberty Hotel (Boston, Massachusetts)

imageSource: Courtesy of Liberty Hotel

The Liberty Hotel in downtown Boston offers a luxurious experience in its remodeled 298 rooms. Originally the Charles Street Jail, constructed in 1851, it was known for its "Boston granite style." After a prisoner revolt in 1973, the jail was shut down for violating their rights. Reopening in September 2007 as a hotel, it integrated existing structures like the catwalk and "drunk tank" while preserving features like wrought iron windows as reminders of its past. The Liberty Hotel now embraces its history while providing guests with a sense of freedom.

5. Emporium Arcade Bar (San Francisco, California)

imageSource: Lou Angeles

Emporium Arcade Bar offers a majestic setting for pool, Pacman, and skeeball. Originally the Harding Theater (1926), this 12,000-square-foot Art Deco building hosted concerts, live performances, and even served as a church and community center. After sitting vacant from 2004 to 2017, it was revitalized as a gaming venue, restoring its historic features like ornate molding and ceilings.

6. Bombay Sapphire Laverstoke Mill Distillery (Hampshire, UK)

imageSource: Richard Chivers/View Pictures/Getty Images

Bombay Sapphire joined forces with Heatherwick Studio to revitalize a former mill into a cutting-edge distillery. Laverstoke Mill unveiled in 2014, underwent meticulous restoration of structures and machinery. The project also featured two intricately designed glasshouses, catering to specific climatic conditions for infusing flavors from tropical and Mediterranean plants.

As we venture into the future, these projects stand as beacons of inspiration, encouraging us to embrace sustainability, celebrate our architectural legacy, and create spaces that harmoniously blend the echoes of the past with the visions of tomorrow. Through adaptive reuse and visionary design, these buildings showcase the boundless possibilities when architects and developers come together to breathe new life into forgotten spaces, enriching our cities and communities for generations to come.

Nishita Verma

Nishita Verma

A creative graphic designer with a wanderlust for exploring diverse cultures and capturing their essence through travel.