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Architecture adapting to evolving demands

22nd September 2016Heritage

Bringing new purpose to old buildings around the world

‘Adaptive Reuse’ is a term in the world of architecture and design that is increasing in momentum. As older buildings lay dormant due to evolving industry demands, designers are now working to readapt their solid, beautiful structures towards a new purpose to be enjoyed for future generations.

This is seen as a form of sustainable architecture, adapting what you already have before demolishing the old to simply build something new. Not only does adaptive reuse create buildings of character and interest, but it also helps repurpose past architecture in a thoughtful and interesting way.

Throughout the world there are many successful examples of this form of design, where old jails, water towers, refineries and historic buildings are reimagined for the needs of today’s communities.



Once a great, commanding power station in London, the Battersea Power Station is in the process of transforming itself into a new mixed-use destination and neighbourhood. From cafes and retail, to accommodation, housing and even a training academy, the site will use its ‘industrial charm’ as the basis of its own revolution and in turn, create a young and vibrant new community.

Battersea Power Station - Adaptive Reuse Architecture

When you think about abandoned jails, you don’t often think of luxury hotels – until you discover the Liberty Hotel in Boston. This hotel is a beautiful example of adaptive reuse with respect to the history of the building and all who have lived there. Rooms are open, light and complemented with gentle nods to their past cell lives. Every detail of this redevelopment shows that the hotel is proud of its prison past, from artwork selections to jail-bar windows. The Liberty Hotel now offers a modern, warm and inviting atmosphere for its guests.

Liberty Hotel Boston - Adaptive Reuse Architecture

It took a small group of visionaries to see the potential that lay in the derelict industrial buildings of the Toronto distillery. The site has been transformed into a home for the creative artists, artisans, entrepreneurs and businesspeople can all rub shoulders together. This site is now an internationally acclaimed village, a ‘must see’ destination for any visitor to Toronto with its authentic exterior restorations and modern, adaptive interior design.

Toronto Distillery district - Photo by Melissa Emond

The goal for Pentridge’s future is another example that will align perfectly with these adaptive reuse projects. Without the need for the penitentiary in Coburg, Shayher Group had one simple choice for its future. Did they allow the site to lay dormant and unchanged as an ode to its penal past, or did they work with local designers to readapt it for the Coburg community to enjoy?

With any adaptive reuse project, the architectural balance between historic structure and modern design must work hand in hand. As the Pentridge site evolves, adds new businesses, community spaces and housing, the site will ultimate change with it. However, it’s the designers, architects and Shayher Group who are all dedicated in ensuring the site does not lose its character or colourful history in the process.