There’s great satisfaction to be taken in starting out with something humble and transforming it to something mighty. Architects especially may enjoy this act of transformation. Last year’s Unique Converted Homes slideshow on CNBC.com showcased 10 such architectural rags-to-riches stories.
Now, an eye-popping look at some more amazing examples of the sustainable practice called adaptive reuse. For this go-round, we have an apartment with a view that was integrated into in an ancient structure and a masterful factory conversion by an architect that became his personal residence and company offices. This collection also shows homes made out of a former school and former shelters for emergency vehicles. The global locations range from a tiny island off Scotland to a rural Spanish hillside to the Mediterranean coast of Tel Aviv.
Many have modern styles, but it’s clear the designers have a reverence for the structure that came before. One architect who revamped a building in the following collection, Pitsou Kedem, wrote of his work, “The project succeeds in both honoring and preserving the historical and almost romantic values of the structure whilst creating a contemporary project, modern and suited to its period.” The same could be said about nearly all of the following unique converted homes.
By Colleen Kane
Posted 16 March 2012
Location: Caceres, Spain
This former abandoned cow stable is in Caceres, a province in western Spain where settlements date from ancient times. The cow-raising methods aren’t much different today due to the hilly landscape, where it’s not possible to use modern farm equipment.
The home belongs to Abaton partners Carlos Alonso and his sister Camino, who created this new version of the building as a country house for their family. So guests won’t feel like they’re sleeping in a stable, bedrooms feature cutout doors to the outside, and for the niños, there’s a bunk room with a kids’ bathroom, which has trough-like sinks at two heights.
Due to the remote location, the architects designed this house to be off the grid. A solar panel system helps with energy during the summer, and the southern-facing position enables it to be passively heated by sunlight in warmer weather. In the winter, the home is powered with turbines using the property’s two streams. The filtered stream water is even used for the shower and drinking. Collected water in the courtyard helps the house cool in summer. The sun reflects from the outdoor pool onto the walls. The resulting house blends with the landscape and uses the natural resources and is simple and modern inside.
Further proving that a home doesn’t need two of each top-of-the-line kitchen appliance to ensure happiness, watch the video tour. You’ll never see anyone more pleased with a house.
Location: Rotterdam, Holland
Architect: Doepel Strijkers
This 2,800-square-foot living space was converted in 2008 from an ambulance garage. The Doepel Strijkers team transformed what was a flat space into a multilevel habitation by creating a dugout in the center.
That dugout also created room for a second level: The bedrooms are suspended over the sunken kitchen area in a polycarbonate “light box” with integrated LED lights. The kitchen has custom cupboards; chunks on the stairs to the living room act as seating or tables. A new glass wall looks out to the greenery of a park.
Location: Montgomery Township, N.J.
Architect: John Hutchison
This former barn near Princeton was originally built in the first half of the 19th century by Louis Tulane and his son Paul. (Tulane University in Louisiana took the family’s name following an endowment from Paul.) Conversion of the barn to a house began in 2009 and was completed in 2011, and it just sold to new owners in February.
The award-winning finished product has five bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths in about 5,000-square-feet of space. The massive floor trusses that once formed the hay loft were retained. The house has built-ins that look like leftovers from whatever old farmhouse once matched the barn, a soaking tub reminiscent of a rain-catching water basin and a walk-in closet so tall that it has its own hayloft for off-season clothes, accessed by rolling ladder.
Details like that are intentional. “Our underlying strategy was to create an interesting dialogue between the historic structure and new interventions,” architect John Hutchison says.
And while many nods to the building’s original use remain, it is designed so residents don’t feel like they’re living in a barn. Hutchison designed five primary living spaces that are thermally isolated from each other to keep energy costs down. With the thermal isolation and the three-story main room bringing light and passive warmth to other parts of the home, energy costs were reduced by more than half.
Location: Sant Just Desvern, Spain
Architect: Ricardo Bofill
This incredible industrial conversion was once a partially ruined, turn-of-the-century cement factory that architect Ricardo Bofill discovered near Barcelona in 1973. He saw the potential in its 30 silos, underground galleries and spacious engine rooms.
By 1975, he transformed the complex into his personal residence and his firm’s main office. Now with eight silos left, it includes a modeling laboratory, archives, a library, a projection room and an event space dubbed The Cathedral. In the intervening decades, the planted foliage has taken hold and added lush beauty to the gothic-gone-post-industrial effect.
Location: West Yorkshire, England
This home, situated on Ilkley Moor, is a former water pumping station from 1848. In its new incarnation, it has open-plan living space, and three bedrooms, two baths (fitted with Italian marble) and a solid oak staircase. It is currently for sale for a little over $ 1 million.
With a relatively unchanged stone block exterior, the building cuts a low profile that's fit for a secret agent, with the technology to match. The pump house features a hydraulic garage lift system (perhaps to bring lots of groceries upstairs to the kitchen’s four ovens), a theater downstairs, electric gates and an infrared security system.
Location: Morrison, Colo.
Architect: Faleide Architects
The sandstone exterior of this former schoolhouse near Denver has been left much the same as when it was new in 1875. However, the bell tower is gone, and it now has a contemporary deck and addition with spacious glass-walled kitchen and breakfast bar.
The American Institute of Architects Colorado bestowed its approval when the Leonard-Congello home won a Merit Award in 2006.
Location: San Andres, Mexico
Designer: Gabriel Caram Esper
Many shipping containers are being put into new service as habitations, and with good reason. They might not be conventionally pretty, but they’re sturdy and they’re cheap: One blogger put the average cost at $1,500 to $3,000 each.
Container City, pictured here, is one such adaptation. At approximately 50,000 square feet, it’s a center of restaurants, bars, shops and gallery spaces as well as residential apartments made from shipping containers. All the construction, remodeling and maintenance is done by local carpenters, blacksmiths, glaziers, service personnel and gardeners.
Location: Richmond, Australia
Much like the Melbourne suburb where it’s located, this former fire station stable in Richmond has been converted from something humble and utilitarian to a luxury residence complete with three bedrooms, three baths, and a two-car garage.
Fancier features include abundant skylights, a Miele kitchen, a rooftop deck and a courtyard and a gym. It is onthe market for an undisclosed price.
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
Architect: Pitsou Kedem
This antique structure with walls of sand, clay, and stone was always a habitation but it was a more primative style before. The exact age is unknown, but architect Pitsou Kedem says it is hundreds of years old.
A large part of Kedem’s task was restoring the structure to its original beauty, after years of neglect and additions. The space is now a tranquil apartment of approximately 1,077 square feet overlooking the Mediterranean that marries modern minimalism with the traditional structure.
Location: Isle of Coll, Scotland
Architect: WT Architecture
To be fair, this White House predates the better-known one in Washington. Located on the tiny Isle of Coll, off the west coast of Scotland, this new home is built using the ruins of The White House, as it was described in travel narratives of the 18th-century writers Boswell and Johnson.
The new house was completed in 2010. The original structure sports a prominent distinctive crack that makes quite a dramatic sight at night when it’s illuminated from inside.