Out with the old, in with the new has a nice ring to it, but isn’t always the right answer. Following the McMansion Era, this is a much more humbling trend making way through many buildings. Recycling, upcycling, and adaptive reuse all refer to the process of repurposing. Think about it, debris from tearing down and rebuilding litters almost every corner of the planet. While statistics on global waste are tough to compile in complete accuracy, the estimates are grim. By 2025, humans will be dealing with over 2 billion tons of garbage each year. A large amount of that trash comes from the construction of new high-rise apartments, offices, and shopping centers. This represents an immense amount of waste: a waste of money, resources, time, and energy. Why not take the time and energy put into demolishing these structures and find a solution that is good for the environment, as well as preserves history? In many cases, the cultural impact of these renovations is worth the cost of preservation over demolition.
Most countries require all buildings to meet certain safety and health codes. This is nothing new, the first known code dates to 1913 B.C.E. Short and to the point, the ancient code imposed a death sentence on anyone who constructed a building that killed people. Today’s codes are far more detailed, complicated, and vary by location. Environmental issues such as asbestos and other hazardous materials used in older construction methods. Clearly, it’s not an easy process; however, it’s far from impossible. The proof is with the dozens of countries around the world that have accomplished repurposing, preserving, and maintaining the past and present together. Victorian-era shopping centers, old coal mines, century-old post offices, missile silos, prisons, train stations, and airplane hangars are just a few of the types of older, abandoned structured transformed into useful facilities.
10. Cleveland’s Hyatt Regency Hotel
This former arcade built in 1890 isn’t where Victorian-era versions of Pac-Man and Super Mario Brothers games were battled by Cleveland’s bored teenagers. “Arcade” is a term used in architecture to describe a covered lane with shops on each side. Today, America’s first indoor shopping structure serves as a luxury hotel on the top two floors and the connected two 10-floor towers. The first two levels of the historic Cleveland landmark remain open to the public. These floors are home to small shops, eateries, fine dining, and services.
9. Stara Kopalnia Coal Mine, Walbrzych, Poland
A former coalmine in Walbrzych, Poland, the Stara Kopalnia Coal Mine is now a Multicultural Park open to the community and visitors. Designers with Nizio Design International reused the 16 historic mining buildings. The city began renovating the facility in 2008 and they are still ongoing. Built in 1770, “Fuchs” is the oldest portion of the mine still standing. Now it houses an Open-Air Mining Museum. In addition to the museum, over two miles of mining tunnels are open for guided tours. An amphitheater, coffee bar, restaurant, hotel, and green parks for families, are some of the additions still coming to the 40,000-square meter park.
8. Magna Plaza, Amsterdam, Holland
Once it was the first central post office of Amsterdam, Holland’s Magma Plaza is not your average indoor shopping center. In 1993 repairs, upgrades, and renovations were complete on the 19th Century Neo-gothic-style circular building designed by the Dutch Architect P.C. Peters in 1899. The four-story building with a glass roof sports a grand piano in the center of its ground floor. On weekend and holidays, visitors can listen to live tunes while strolling about the structures 30 small stores, dining establishments, and coffee bars.
7. Coal Gasometers, Vienna
Known for its beautiful sites such as the Natural History Museum built in 1889 or the Viennese Giant Wheel, a 212-foot tall Ferris wheel at the entrance to the Prater Amusement Park, but another area better known to residents is also a national treasure in Austria’s capital city. The Vienna Coal Gasometers, three cylinder-shaped buildings, closed in 1984. After 100-plus years of storing the city’s coal gas, they became obsolete when the city converted to natural gas. Renovated in 2001, now they encompass three unique living and social communities. Keeping the original brick frame, the designs gutted the inside and transformed the 230-foot tall, 197-foot diameter structures into modern dream residences. Each container has a residential, commercial, entertainment, and shopping zone. Aside from those similarities, each has a different, unique design.
6. John Street Roundhouse, Toronto, Canada
Servicing the Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CPR) steam engines from 1931 until the early 1980’s when larger, diesel and electric trains replaced the classic steam locomotives, the John Street Roundhouse in Toronto, Canada is one of the few remaining historic structures. CPR donated the unused circular building to the city of Toronto in 1986 and renamed the Roundhouse Park. The renovated structure covers 17-acres in Downtown Toronto. New tenants to the location include the Toronto Railroad Museum operated by the Toronto Railway Heritage that opened in 2010; the Steam Whistle Brewery began operations in 2000; and a furniture store. A treat for visitors is the skywalk that connects the roundhouse to Union Station. The 1,640-foot underground walkway is a part of the city’s PATH system, 19-miles of foot tunnels below downtown Toronto.
5. Spitfork Fort and Hotel, British Isles, UK
The Spiltfork Fort combines luxury and history at sea in this 134-year old the British Isle fort renovated into a five-star resort. The “Solent Forts” includes the Spitbank, Horse Sand, and No Man’s Land Forts. Guests can only access the getaway by helicopter or boat. The resort has a private lounge in the Royal Clarence Marina. Upon arriving at the fort, check into one of the nine suites, relax on a super king-sized bed, or relax with a glass of champagne on the rooftop hot pool. For great photo opportunities, an original lighthouse with an observatory provides amazing views across the Isle of Right in the British Isles.
4. The Charles Street Jail, Boston, Mass.
A jail is rarely a place of sunshine and happiness, nonetheless, the Charles Street Jail in Boston, Mass. managed to take a well-constructed, historic downtown jail and renovate it into a five-star luxury hotel. Built in 1851, the Suffolk County’s jail didn’t close until 1990 when a federal judge ruled it overcrowded and unsafe. In 2007, after five-years and $50 million in renovations, the renovated 156-year old stone building reopened as the Liberty Hotel. Retaining much of the original structure, the national and state national historic building includes 18 guest rooms constructed from the jail cells. The bar is located in the jails drunk tank. The hotel has a 16-story building next to jail with additional guest rooms and suites.
3. Las Arenas, Barcelona, Spain
Built between 1889 and 1900, the Arenas de Barcelona, or Barcelona’s Bullfighting Ring hosted its last bullfight on June 9, 1977, ten years after the Beatles performed in the historic sports arena. The 171-foot space remained vacant until 1999 when a local architecture firm, Richard Rogers proposed the renovations to repurpose the large-capacity facility into an indoor shopping mall. Maintaining the horseshoe shaped entryway and brick exterior, the inside was gutted. In 2011, the refreshed facility opened with six floors and a rooftop terrace. Inside are several dining areas, shops, movie theaters, a rock museum, gym, and escalator to the terrace. On a clear day, visitors get a 360-view of Barcelona.
2. Four Seasons Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey
The Four Seasons-Sultanahmet Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey is not your average luxury hotel. The company renovated the historic building in the “Old City,” built in 1919; it’s the first jail built in Istanbul during the long reign of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish Neoclassical style architecture has beautiful arched hallways, sculpted marble pillars, and still has the original wooden entry doors. From the rooftop of the old jail guests get an amazing view of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Roman Hippodrome, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market.
1. Tropical Islands Resort, Krausnick, Germany
Germany turned a Cold War era Soviet Airbus Hanger into the largest indoor waterpark in the world. The countryside resort located near Berlin opened in 2004. The 70,000-square foot roof is large enough to house the entire Statue of Liberty. It has an indoor pool the size of four Olympic pools and maintains a year-round temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it really is a tropical island. An entire side of the hanger hosts 50,000 tropical trees, this combined with the temperature and moisture, allows guests to experience a tropical climate. The pool has a large sandy beach; guests can explore a fake tropical village or slide down a nine-story waterslide.