Adaptive Re-use has increasingly become a topical issue over the past year, especially in London, where debate has risen over whether it is sustainable to spend vast sums of cash on high rise towers or could the money be better spent on the renovation of many of the structures which make up the city landscape.
Bringing new life to disused spaces is seen by many as a key factor in land conservation and the reduction of urban sprawl. Across the globe the interest in Adaptive Re-use is increasing. When I questioned ALL DESIGN Director Will Alsop on what direction he would like design to take, he replied '10 years ago when I saw old buildings in London, I would have said knock them over. Today I would say renovate them, maximise them and build on top of them.' Evidently, there is a shift on what we perceive to be the best solutions for our urban environment and how to bring positive change to neighbourhoods and cities.
Alsop is not the only person with this point of view. When speaking to WAN AWARDS jury panellist Robert Morris-Nunn, Director of Circa Morris-Nunn Architects in Tasmania, he told me 'I'm very interested in recycling old buildings, keeping their old character and adding a new dimension...It shows the soul of the place, it's obviously a special building for the culture and the new work that goes on within it, can enrich it'.
Perhaps the most iconic example of Adaptive Re-use in London is the Tate Modern, the Modern Art Gallery in the Bankside area of Central London. Originally a power station which closed in 1981, Pritzker Prize winning architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, brought the place back to life in 2000. It is now the most-visited modern art gallery in the world, with over 4 million visitors per year. The art museum is a perfect example that having the skill to adapt an old building is not only about sustainability but it demonstrates innovation design and creative flair.
To celebrate these resourceful and artistic skills, World Architecture News has launched this autumn the WAN Adaptive Re-use Award 2012. An international competition which celebrates the best renovated and recycled structures. If you have restored new life back into a derelict space, then WAN wants to hear from you. Perhaps you have converted a neglected factory into a stylish office or an abandoned church into an attractive community centre. Whatever the design, we are providing a global platform to highlight the progression in the sector.