Reusing  Industrial Buildings

Examples of how old buildings can be repurposed

Industrial buildings often lay in a decaying state until local authorities work out what to do with them. Most are eventually torn down but a few are extensively refurbished and brought back to life as offices, commercial properties, leisure complexes and even residential spaces. This article explores some of the most interesting industrial buildings which have been saved from demolition and offered a new life.

Reusing Industrial Buildings - Kraansppor, Netherlands

Kraanspoor, Netherlands

Kraansppor (‘craneway’) is an entire three storey office building constructed on top of a former concrete craneway in the Netherlands. The unique design stretches 270 metres and offers expansive views over the IJ river. Steel columns raise the building, designed by OTH Architecten, above the craneway. This design has brought new life to a previously decaying area.

Murrays’ Mills, Manchester, UK

Ancoats, Manchester hosts some of the city’s most important historical buildings. Murrays’ Mills is the world’s oldest steam-powered cotton mill and has seen extensive refurbishment in recent years. Today the complex features 124 apartments in the industrial buildings which were completed between 1797 and 1804. The exterior of the buildings has largely been kept in its original style while the interiors have been well-adapted to residential purposes. Bay windows from the original elevation buildings have been preserved while the chimneys of the eight floor buildings have been restored.

Reusing Industrial Buildings - Murrays' Mills, UK

Some Examples from China

Reusing Industrial Buildings - 1933 Slaughterhouse, China

1933 Slaughterhouse, shanghai

Once the largest slaughterhouse in east Asia, this building today has shops, offices and restaurants. The Shanghai building was designed by Balfours in 1933 in an Art Deco style which was commonplace in the city in that period. The slaughterhouse's shell is 24-sided, features 300 Gothic columns and has 26 sky bridges which were previously used for moving cattle around the complex.

Reusing Industrial Buildings - Power Station of Art, China

Power station of art, shanghai

Today this former power station is a museum for contemporary art since reopening in 2011 after an extensive refurbishment by architects TJAD Original Design Studio. Many of the large spaces of the industrial building have been repurposed as open exhibition spaces. Industrial features such as piping and steelwork remain exposed.

Reusing Industrial Buildings - Rotermann Quarter, Estonia

rotermann quarter, tallinn, estonia

Rotermann Quarter is another collection of industrial buildings which originally included barley and rye mills, boiler plants, workshops and a power plant. Plans during the Soviet occupation threatened the area and much of the quarter remained dilapidated during the 1990s until improvements began around the turn of the millennium.

New buildings in the district are restricted in height to 24 metres which is the height of the grain elevator. Rotermann today includes many fashion stores, restaurants, offices and restoration of the final building in the complex, a former bread factory, was completed in 2021.

gas works park, seattle, usa

This repurposed gas works is now a 77,000 square metre park on the shore of Lake Union. Remnants of the coal gasification plant dot the park’s area which was landscaped by Richard Haag. Some of the industrial elements have been reconditioned, some lie in ruins and others have been converted into a children’s play area. The site’s groundwater was heavily contaminated during the industrial period but much cleaning has today reduced the pollution considerably.

Reusing Industrial Buildings - Gas Works Park, USA
Reusing Industrial Buildings - Tate Modern, UK

tate modern, london, uk

London’s Tate Modern is the home of the national modern and contemporary art collection. The gallery is located inside the former Bankside Power Station on the river Thames. The power station was originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who is the name behind another London power station, Battersea Power Station. The building lay abandoned for years until Tate unveiled plans to redevelop it in the 1990s. The new designs were the work of architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron.