Thirty years ago, in the badass seventies, the warehouse loft was cutting-edge real estate. The loft was then the height of bohemian cool; now it seems tame and utterly conventional. The conversion of offbeat industrial spaces—designers call it ‘adaptive reuse’—has moved on to more adventurous ground as architects and developers try to preserve the past and keep building materials out of landfills. As these five projects illustrate, the art lies not in what’s removed but in what industrial memory is preserved, and how it’s woven among new materials.
Architects Brian Bell and David Yocum, principals of bldgs, found this abandoned repair shop and car parts warehouse in an industrial backwater of Atlanta. Their renovation is based on the notion that a decaying repair shop has its own form of beauty. They converted it to a studio for their firm and an apartment they call Villa de Murph without losing the paint-chipped cement block walls and rusted canopy. Inside is a courtyard with a fireplace, a table that seats 18, a glass-walled studio looking onto the courtyard and an apartment with skylights in a corrugated metal roof.
The Turtle Creek Pump House was built in 1915 to supply water to the Highland Park neighborhood of Dallas. It was bought at auction in 2000 by a neighboring couple and converted to a gallery and guest house by Cunningham Architects with plantings by Julie Bargman of D.I.R.T Studio. Steel benches were made from old electrical panels; a well-head was turned into a cocktail table; the old concrete reservoirs were replumbed as rough-hewn fountains.; 70-year-old broken concrete slabs form stepping stones in a garden path.
The owner of a penthouse loft in a downtown Manhattan building turned this water tank, once used to feed the building’s sprinkler system, into a retreat for reading and zoning out in front of skyline views. Messana O’Rorke Architects rehabbed the cylindrical cast-iron tank, most notably by blowtorching a hole for a 12-foot window and lining the interior with sheetrock and oak flooring.
Behold the the mother of all rehabs: Over the course of three decades the Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill converted an abandoned cement factory with more than 30 silos and enormous engine rooms into his home and office, with a cavernous space for lectures, exhibitions and concerts occupying the largest of the former silos.