WAN Adaptive Reuse Award 2015

Lydia O’Callaghan
Monday 21 Dec 2015

Six shortlisted projects highlighting the best in Adaptive Reuse

The WAN Adaptive Reuse Award 2015 champions the adaption of historic structures to contemporary uses, not only to preserve our architectural heritage, but also to create a unique sense of place that reinvigorates communities in an environmentally sustainable way. Highlighting aesthetic and structural mastery behind some of the most dramatic transformations.

There were 35 longlisted projects that were closely examined recently by a panel of expert judges. Considering a number of factors: originality; innovation; form; sustainability; context - the architects needed to show the judges specific examples of how they achieved transformative effects, while remaining sympathetic to the building’s original character. The shortlisted projects were then tested to see whether their design had either: overcome key challenges in the client brief, and/or, has pushed the boundaries for the building type. 

This year’s jury panel were: John Assael, Founder of Assael Architecture, Ziona Strelitz, Founder of ZZA Responsive User Environments, and Jo Wright, Practice Leader at Arup Associates. 

All the judges felt the longlisted projects showed a great variety in scale and building types for this category, and the selected six shortlisted and one commended projects demonstrated fantastic examples of what is possible in adaptive reuse design. They are listed below in no particular order. 

59BTP-House in Singapore by ONG&ONG Pte Ltd. 

The brief required the architects to retain the owner's 1950s childhood home, while modernising the space. John felt: “The architects had transformed this house - whilst remaining modest, they had achieved great intervention resulting in a sophisticated solution.” The look of the house, with the top volume hanging over the bottom volume, was retained while the layout was redesigned to incorporate features of modern tropical architecture. Additional floor space for more bedrooms was created through the new wing that closely follows the original structure. Jo commented: “It’s a strong aesthetic response to the existing building, they’ve taken something that was quite ugly and given it a new lease of life - transforming the character of the building”, with Ziona going on to say: “It’s very beautiful.”

Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier Two in the United States by Maryann Thompson Architects.  

The architects transformed an existing 16,250 sq m waterfront industrial complex into a sports and exercise hub. Recycling a deteriorating cocoa bean warehouse into a bright and inviting recreation centre. The complex, conceived as a 'toybox' for the park as a whole, holds recreational equipment including playgrounds, picnic areas, an inline skating rink and courts for basketball, handball, bocce and tetherball. Ziona was first to say: “I think it’s absolutely fabulous, I love it because it’s brave, it’s lean, and it’s affordable – it’s inspiring.” Enclosing side walls were removed to bring light to the interiors, while poly-carbonate skylights inserted into gables cast diffuse light from above. Outside, a rocky spiral tidal pool that reveals the daily tidal cycle replaces what was previously a barren asphalt strip connecting the pier to land. Jo commented: “I admire the social inclusion agenda, when you see the before, it’s a really compelling case. “There’s a restraint about it that I admire, it’s making amazing use of the structure.”

Porcelanosa in the United States by Foster + Partners.

John began by saying: “I think the architect has worked very hard to do something special with this building. It’s a very successful project” The new flagship showroom is housed in the renovated 1919 Commodore Criterion building at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. The challenge for the showroom’s design was to transform the interior of the protected shell into a dynamic, highly flexible new sequence of spaces. Spatial variety is introduced by a series of dramatic interlocking levels, with mezzanine and double-height spaces, a light well and a roof terrace at the very top. “It’s been done really well” commented Ziona, going on to say: “It’s intelligent, it’s a real enhancement of space.”

Al-Ansar Mosque in Singapore by ONG&ONG Pte Ltd.

The overall design concept was unique in that the newer elements fit seamlessly with the existing architectural structures of the original mosque, such as the Minaret and Blue Dome, thus allowing the mosque to be updated, whilst giving due respect to its rich cultural background. “It looks welcoming, it’s got a very inviting frontage - I think it’s great” commented Ziona.  The new structure opens up the complex, as the mosque now has a large, covered community plaza, formed by a new, cantilevered box or floating podium. The plaza serves multiple functions – informal gathering space, extended place for worship, and even social event area. The new volume above the plaza houses additional programmes, including a multi-purpose 300-seat auditorium and function rooms. Jo concluded: “It’s so much more permeable than its previous incarnation.”

Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods in Australia by Woods Bagot & Tridente Architects. 

The architects identified benefits to retaining the existing structure of the building, resulting in an urban renewal project without precedent. Tonsley is now a vibrant, mixed use employment precinct supporting clean technologies, sustainable industries, advanced manufacturing, education and research. Ziona was first to say: “It’s taken a dinosaur of hugely embodied energy and turned it into a contemporary series of places of quality and functional relevance.” Sustainability was paramount for the MAB with a 3 megawatt solar array on the roof producing affordable, sustainable energy for tenants and communications infrastructure providing connected technology as a basis for a Smart Grid Energy system. “It’s beautiful, I love the way they’ve retained most of the structure” commented John.

Spring Studios by in the United States by AA STUDIO with MA Architects.

The project consists of the conversion of the top four storeys of the existing building into a major photographic and moving image studio complex for Spring Studios. “It’s a great gesture to the city” commented Ziona. During the survey of the original building the designers discovered oversized steel trusses supporting the roof across the span of the full building width. These trusses were hidden in a deep false ceiling underneath the roof structure. These elements of the original building were spared from demolition and incorporated in the design of the main studio/event space area. The roof of the existing building has been completely rebuilt in order to sustain the live load of the new roof terrace above. This project was designed in collaboration with Morris Adjmi Architects. John was very taken with this project, commenting: “This is fabulous with the way it’s been adapted, there’s been some serious interventions to create some interesting spaces. It has beautiful details inside - resulting in a fantastic design.”

On top of the six shortlisted schemes, the judges also wanted to select one project in particular as ‘Commended’ as they felt this project needed to be highlighted. This project was entitled Austin Community College, Highland Campus in the United States by Barnes Gromatsky Kosarek Architects. With a vision for a new urban model, Austin Community College purchased Highland Mall, an underused property, and begun a multi-phased, public-private partnership for an academic campus that will become the centre of a new urban redevelopment district. Conversion of the former JCPenney store is phase one of this development, setting the initial tone for transformation of the entire mall. The project has become a catalyst for urban renewal of the entire neighborhood. This first phase raises the bar for the college’s sustainability initiative and has achieved LEED Gold certification. All the judges were impressed with this project, with John saying: “It sets a great model for future interventions.” 

Thank you to all involved in the WAN Adaptive Reuse Award 2015. The winner will be announced on 19th January 2016. 


Lydia O’Callaghan

Awards Coordinator

Key Facts:


Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team