Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Character of Adaptive Reuse

Did you know about the impact historic preservation can have on a city? Historic buildings, despite their aesthetic appearance and symbolism, can pose challenges in today’s modern society and people’s evolving changes. Look at New York decades ago, many of the buildings were once large factories made for different purposes such as manufacturing. Today, that is no longer the case, our city’s workforce evolved and those buildings changed to become more useful for the times they are now in.
Old factory buildings in New York

With the purposes for those buildings are no longer relevant and functional, this is when adaptive reuse kicks in. The old structures are adapted for a new use and have new life breathing into it.

Adaptive Reuse Saves Cities
If adaptive reuse no longer occurred, our city could consist of structures falling apart, abandoned buildings and more. Adaptive reuse has become an important tool to promote preservation along with economic viability of buildings and vitality of neighborhoods and districts. For instance, Jersey City is a historic district and the process of adaptive reuse is thankfully, trending in this area.

Jorge Mastropietro, loves designing in these types of neighborhoods because he appreciates historic districts and wants to update their buildings to fit today’s modern needs. In his project 526 Manila, he had the opportunity to alter the primary function of the structure while retaining some of the architectural details that make the building unique.
526 Manila Townhouse

The original house, an 1880 townhouse, was a 4-story brick building. JMA’s mission was to create two different 2-bedroom duplex apartments. JMA adapted the existing space to the new needs of modern life but kept the charm of the original style in its façade.
The house is situated between five similar row houses from the same period, which is the reason why the front elevation has only been restored and is further kept untouched.
Adaptive Reuse Reduces Energy and Resources
It is beneficial for architects to reuse an existing structure and shell because it reduces the need to manufacture and construct the building with new materials. Thereby, reducing the need for additional natural resources and the energy required to use them. 
Depending on the integrity of the building, it is more affordable and easier to renovate or to add on to existing buildings rather than to build new. The economic savings may differ from project to project.
Our 526 Manila project is a building that has great presence in the community due to its location, as well as its row style streetscape.

When JMA was working on the 526 Manila renovations, we made sure the interior also included changes to fit today’s needs. For instance, the environmental issues today have skyrocketed. Therefore, we used eco-friendly materials like bamboo floors, high efficiency appliances, and double pane windows. To provide views, the wall of the east façade (rear) on the first three levels, were opened and replaced by sliding windows partitions. In the lower apartment, the living area, kitchen and living room, were installed in the parlor level in order to get the best views. The living spaces were opened up to the exterior and the unrestricted views span from the front to the back of the house.
Stairs by the entrance at 526 Manila
Designed by JMA

Interior at 526 Manila

I think preservation and adaptive reuse should be a subject that is important to everyone. These historic buildings have a spirit to them, when they were first built; they represented the people and how they lived. For an architect to dismiss a building’s story is a shame because the entire city loses a part of its culture.  I love architecture because each building creates a narrative for our lives and the narrative always has the chance to change as time moves forward.

Sarafides, Athena. “Creating Sustainable Communities.  A guide for developers and communities-  Building Reuse and Adaptive Reuse”.  NJ Gov. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Web September 2007

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