Renovation: a modern approach to historic buildings
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Renovation: a modern approach to historic buildings

McCullough Mulvin Architects | Park Associati | MuuM | Atelier tao+c

Renovation: a modern approach to historic buildings
By Redazione The Plan -

Why renovate buildings?

There are many reasons and they tend to hinge on context. Certainly, the enormous social changes we’ve seen his century have contributed to the demand for new architectural solutions. Our way of life has changed radically over the last fifty years. The corporate world, too, has evolved dramatically. So as not to lose the memory of what came before, architects are increasingly being called upon to adapt existing buildings to meet new needs. This can require a great deal of creative input, particularly if the project involves changing the whole function of a building.

An interesting example is “Il centro” shopping mall in Milan, designed by AMDL and Michele De Lucchi. This huge mall, one of the biggest in Europe, is the result of the repurposing of a former Alfa Romeo factory. In the ’70s and ’80s, the Italian automaker employed some twenty thousand workers here, in what was a dynamic, highly productive manufacturing hub that occupied no less than 1.4 million square feet (130,000 m2). Changes in the car market, however, led the company to relocate and abandon the site. Through the use of warmer materials, and a keen focus on the wellbeing of users, AMDL and Michele De Lucchi preserved and breathed new life into a section of the complex.

Read more about “Il centro” shopping mall by AMDL and Michele De Lucchi.


It’s not always easy working with an existing structure. It demands thoroughly researching the building’s history to know what work has been done to it over the course of its life. It’s then possible to build a hierarchy of the various changes and additions so as to determine what needs to be preserved for historical, cultural, or other reasons. The modernization of the structure should focus on enhancing it by creating a new identity and dignity.

Following this approach, Wilmotte & Associés masterminded the successful rebirth of the Hotel Lutetia, a symbol of art nouveau Paris. Inaugurated in 1910, the building was Paris’s first luxury hotel. The recent renovation has renewed its original function, but brought the building in line with contemporary tastes, standards in comfort, and energy saving ideas. By completely rethinking the interiors, but leaving the exteriors intact, the architects approached this very complex project respectfully.

Read more about Hotel Lutetia by Wilmotte & Associés.

Restoration, rather than demolishing and rebuilding, can be a more difficult design process. But the final result often has a greater charm – sometimes stemming from that sense of amazement when a rundown building has been transformed and is ready for a new life.

The Renovation category of The Plan Award 2021


Over the years, a huge variety of projects has been entered in the Renovation category of The Plan Award. This annual award, open to completed and future projects, was established to promote both awareness, and the quality of the work, of designers, academics, and students in the fields of architecture, design, and urban planning, while broadening the discussion of topical issues affecting the sector.

The Plan Award 2021 is divided into different categories, for each of which the Jury will decide one winner and, if appropriate, honorable mentions. The registration deadline is May 31.

Read more about participating in The Plan Award 2021.

The repurposing of existing buildings is a highly topical issue, particularly in countries with a rich architectural heritage.


CER Istanbul – T3, the regeneration of an industrial site

The project for the T3 “CER Istanbul” building was part of a masterplan for regenerating the early 20th-century maintenance yards that once served Istanbul’s railroad traffic, including the famous Orient Express.

By the mid-20th century, the entire site had become obsolete, lacking the infrastructure needed to serve the city’s modern railroad system. Also, after decades of neglect, it had fallen into a state of considerable disrepair.

Today, CER İstanbul occupies a prime city location on the southern side of the Golden Horn Peninsula, adjacent to the city’s historic walls and overlooking the Sea of Marmara.

The project benefits from a unique set of architectural and urban features, with exceptional sea views, easy access to large beachfront spaces, and proximity to major transport hubs.

Read more about the project


Cathal Brugha Barracks

These military archives and storage block are located near a 19th century military barracks in central Dublin. The buildings mark the boundary of an existing network of streets, sheds, and parade grounds. Copying the architectural style of the existing buildings made it possible to repurpose and extend them. The existing military archive and new warehouse facility were the culmination of a painstaking renovation project that preserved the external appearance as far as possible, while creating very large internal spaces, equipped with modern amenities.

Read more about the project

Capsule hotel and bookstore in the Wu Qinglong Village renovation project

Hidden away in the forests of Tonglu, in China’s Zhejiang province, Wu Qinglong is an ancient village named after the stream that runs through it. On one of the village streets is an old timber house with mud walls. Atelier tao + c redesigned and regenerated this 2,500 square foot (232 m2) building by creating, within its two-story 23 foot (7.2 m) high space, a capsule hotel for up to twenty guests, a community bookshop, and a library. The greatest challenge for the architects, and the key to the whole project, was to ensure the privacy of the accommodation area, while also designing public spaces, in a very limited area, that convey a feeling of openness.

Read more about the project


Brisa 5: Retrofitting a building designed by Pietro Portaluppi in Milan

This retrofit project involved both blocks of a complex designed by Pietro Portaluppi in downtown Milan. The two buildings, on three and five levels, are completely different in style, one dating from 1919 and the other from 1950.

This total renovation included reorganizing the volumes and all the internal spaces, making them more fluid and functional, and suitable for use by at least two different tenants.

A section of the basement, previously used for storage, was opened up and is now an inner courtyard, overlooked by reception areas and meeting rooms. Through their fully glazed walls, these spaces overlook a pomegranate tree, which breaks up this new outdoor space, completely finished in Ceppo stone tiles. The remaining basement space will house the library of the law firm to occupy this section of the complex. Also overlooking the courtyard, on ground level there are a cafeteria and a changing room for workers who cycle to work or take a run during their lunch break.

Read more about the project

If you’ve designed a renovation project – completed after January 1, 2018, or yet to be completed – you have until May 31 to register for the Renovation category of The Plan Award 2021. Enter your project via the registration page.

All other credits relating to photos and render refer to individual articles.

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