Adaptive reuse

Adaptive reuse is conventionally defined as “the process of adapting old structures for new purposes.”


To prolong the period from cradle-to-grave for a building by retaining all or most of the structural system and as much as possible of other elements, such as cladding, glass, and interior partitions. Reuse, readaptation, reappropriation of existing or built structures has remote historical precedents. In antiquity, durable, sturdy structures of stone and masonry outlived empires and often changed program many times. In modernity, the desire to preserve historical buildings and neighborhoods emerged in many Western countries out of various romanticist, nationalistic, and historicist streams. Today, the imperative to extend the life cycle of a structure is related to various sustainability goals: sprawl minimization, preservation of virgin materials, and energy conservation. Also, many Western cities are changing dramatically as industrial operations more often than not move to the South and the East leaving massive, sturdy buildings vacant. Institutional nature is also changing with many old hospitals, sanatoriums, military buildings, and even office blocks becoming redundant. AR becomes a means to revitalize urban life and declining neighborhoods. (from MIT Greening East Campus)

This blog began with that architectural definition and a vision of sustainability in mind but already it is too late to save our delusional culture of unlimited consumption (a good thing, too). The planet itself is already evolving towards a new climatic equilibrium that we may find much less congenial. Humanity must make an evolutionary leap, and we need to invent a new world and a new culture for ouselves using the only raw material available, our old world.

We saw how adaptive reuse could also be applied to these problems. It can describe the entire range of processes by which human technologies and memes evolve, the “contemporary metamorphoses” of our subtitle. Like Ovid‘s Metamorphoses, we are attempting to document, and hopefully influence, this transition from one state to another, all the while delighting in both the genius and the quixotic absurdity of the crooked timber of humanity.