Abandoned buildings are typically considered eyesores. For some, they’re synonymous with neglect and decay. But what if someone takes these structures (many of them decades if not centuries old) and turns them into something beautiful? From London to Baltimore, that’s exactly what some architecture firms have done over the past few decades. AD rounds up seven of the most incredible examples of when something derelict was transformed into something dazzling.
The American Brewery (Baltimore, Maryland)
Built in 1887, the American Brewery was one of the largest of its kind in the state of Maryland. Production lasted until 1920, when operations shut down during Prohibition. The building was eventually abandoned, but because of its historic significance it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. In 2012, Cho Benn Holback + Associates completed a renovation of the building, transforming it into a community space. The project won a 2010 Baltimore Heritage Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse and Compatible Design.
Kings Theatre (Brooklyn, New York)
Opened in 1929, the then-Loew’s Kings Theatre was created by the leading movie theater designers of the early 20th century, Rapp and Rapp. Some five decades later, in 1977, this 3,676 seat house closed its doors. They didn’t reopen to the public until 2015, when Washington D.C.-based architects Martinez+Johnson renovated the space for roughly $95 million.
La Fabrica (near Barcelona, Spain)
Located near Barcelona, La Fabrica was once a cement factory. The 33,368-square-foot space, which was built right after World War I, was renovated in the mid-1970s by famed Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill. So fascinated by the structure was Bofill that he turned it into his firm’s main headquarters. One of Bofill‘s most interesting improvements was the planting of gardens within the premises and on the rooftop. The goal was to create an environment that would, over time, blur the lines between nature and building.
Le Château de Rentilly (Bussy-Saint-Martin, France)
The château was built in the 1940s and then renovated in 2014 by French artist Xavier Veilhan and architecture firm Bona-Lemercier. The building was encased in a skin of polished stainless steel that reflects the image of the park and visitors as they walk past.
Tennessee Theatre (Knoxville, Tennessee)
When the Tennessee Theatre first opened in 1928, critics hailed it as “the South’s most beautiful theater.” At the time, the theater (which was designed Chicago-based architects Graven & Mayger) featured a charming, worldly interior. For example, there were French-style chandeliers, Italian terrazzo flooring in the main lobby, and Asian influences in the carpet and drapery patterns. Later in the 20th century, the building fell on hard times. That was until 2005 when a $25.5 million renovation and restoration project transformed it into a world-class performing arts center. Funded through public and private donations, the project was led by the Knoxville-based firm McCarty Holsaple Architects.
St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel (London, England)
Built in the 1860s as a train station to accommodate a booming railway industry, the building that now houses the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel was designed by George Gilbert Scott. The British architect brought his expertise in English Gothic revival architecture and created a masterpiece for socialites and wealthy businessmen to enjoy traveling through. The station quickly turned to a successful hotel in the late 19th century, yet fell out of favor in the 20th century. It wasn’t until 2011 that it was rejuvenated after a $185 million renovation by two British-based firms, RHWL and Richard Griffiths Architects. The space was beautifully transformed into a luxury hotel known as the St. Pancras Renaissance.
Office Spaces (Johor, Malaysia)
Initially proposed to house shops, the project was abandoned halfway through leaving a series of decaying structures. In the early 2000s, the Singapore-based firm L Architects transformed the space into a row of buildings that harmoniously combines hard concrete and metal lines with the verdant surrounding landscape. Today the space is occupied by several different companies, including the project developer’s head office.