Friday, November 20, 2009

Adaptive Reuse: Promoting Synergy and Collaboration

Saskatoon has been enriched over the past few months through the establishment of Great Places , a discussion forum on current issues in the built environment. On Wednesday, November 18, three local professionals shared their perspectives on renovation and design.

Structure Supports Ideology
Jyhling Lee, architect, public artist and designer, discussed three heritage buildings in Toronto that have been renovated to serve as cultural centres. While respecting the original integrity of the buildings, the structures have been adapted to meet social and environmental needs.

401 Richmond, formerly a factory, is now home to 140 cultural organizations. The entrance way, lobby and wide hallways are social meeting places that build community. The roof garden includes an urban garden, a greenhouse, a deck with free internet access and a 3,000 square foot green roof. The gardens insulate the building, prevent stormwater runoff and counter air pollution.

The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) is another warehouse that has been transformed to provide work space for social action groups. CSI’s goal is to create spaces where “creativity and social conscience ignite each other” in a “dynamic community hub.” There are offices (with glass walls allowing the natural light to reach the core of the building), permanent desks and shared-use desks as well as a wide range of common areas, including a kitchen and meeting rooms with whiteboard walls and chalkboards on the closet doors. Again, there’s a green roof to support insect and bird life and a living bio wall inside the building to help purify the air.

Sedimentary Architecture
Andrew Wallace, Architectural Design Coordinator with the University of Saskatchewan, describes the renovation and reuse of heritage buildings as sedimentary architecture. Changes and additions are designed to add a new layer of depth and richness rather than attempting to erase the past. By layering the new and the old, each layer is still distinct, both reinforcing and contrasting with each other.

Wallace described the work he was involved in to upgrade and add administrative space to the Whitby Junction Railway Station, which now serves as a community gallery. The original building was preserved and an addition was lightly connected to one side so that the old building was not obscured. The addition was constructed in traditional, southern Ontario brick and the metal beams resemble train rails.

They rebuilt the platform behind the old train station to serve as a sculpture court, and a boxcar parked on the rails serves as a printmaking studio.

Creative Expression
Curtis Olson is a musician and a developer. He and his wife purchased a 1935 Safeway grocery store in the Caswell Hill and turned it into a combination of residence, home office, music studio and performance space. It’s their home, but they also host home concerts. The space expresses their respect for Prairie structures by incorporating a red barn, a grain elevator and a grain silo (kitchen in the round) into the space.

Olson emphasized that adaptive reuse is a form of storytelling and must show respect for the building. His company was responsible for converting the Fairbanks Warehouse into 12 loft condominiums. He has just completed the first Shift home providing modern, affordable, green housing.

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