Innovation by Adaptation

Adaptive-reuse is an old design methodology that’s gaining momentum in light of new economic drivers of the global market. Twenty years ago, we helped with converting an obsolete Dallas world-fair building into a museum for women. Recently we completed more projects that are designed to inject new lives into old buildings and rejuvenate ignored urban blocks. 

Adaptation modifies an existing structure built for a previous function to serve a new purpose. This process eliminates the need for complete demolition, preserves resources, and most importantly ensures contextual continuity. Adaptation creates architectural typologies that are inherently revolutionary by combining seemingly alien elements. This process is a positive regeneration for architectural evolution. In urban design terms, adaptation creates new containers that harbor civil and commercial activities that connect tradition with innovation. 

SaaN’s Qiaokou project in Wuhan coins this idea of innovation by adaptation. It is located in the old industrial district with rows of factories from 1950s. Working with local government, we explore ways to renovate these factory rows using adaptation. 

With an analogy of Chinese lantern, we bring light and modernity to the clumsy factory building. We create a plaza for social gatherings and commercial events, convert a chimney into a landmark symbolizing light house of the entire revitalized district. For the typical factory row, we selectively remove walls and roofs while keeping structural columns and trusses. We create modulated office spaces using spaces above the pitched roofline, adding a second floor into the building, bringing down scale and creating a sense privacy. Dark red brick, white-painted structural frames, and large storefront help to convert this old factory district into a modern, artistic and fashionable urban center. 


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