Sometimes the greenest way to build is to preserve and repair what we already have, and often, that will mean adapting an older building to serve a different purpose than it was originally intended for. This can actually be a quirky advantage of sorts, as we end up with former Walmarts turned into libraries, or gas stations readapted as intergenerational cultural centres.
In Brno, Czech design firm KOGAA Studio converted a four-storey building into a multipurpose complex that houses offices, co-working spaces, dining, and spaces for events. This building was the last one standing out of seven that were once part of a distillery founded by a local family more than two centuries ago, and every space in this new Social Reactor has been reconsidered for a new use: there's even a pop-up bar installed in a historic old elevator that opens out onto the main outdoor gathering space.
The designers say:
The Distillery is an organic body with a potential of expansion in different directions. It can absorb various subjects from which to be influenced and grow with. The typology of the Social Reactors is designed as a hybrid, which is able to adapt in time to the needs of the entities using it. [..]
One of the latest and most impactive structural interventions was carried out at the second and third level of the building, where the central beam system was removed to create a double height hall and two balconies facing the central space. The former is meant for presentations, lectures and workshops, while the upper balconies are dedicated to designers’ ateliers and offices. The new program is distributed across all three levels of the building, and the multiple functions are spread out across different spaces, creating a dynamic and challenging working environment.
The building has a lot of history; even before its current transformation, it was being utilized for a variety of functions. For instance, prior to being turned into a co-working space, the main hall was used as an event venue and then an art cinema. Now, a two-tiered volume has been built using wooden and polycarbonate materials (recycled from previous events) to create a shared meeting room, a kitchenette, a library and working spaces on its upper part.
The outdoor courtyard was envisioned as a "hub of interaction between the research and the public," and now serves as an active place for people to gather, mingle and have a drink -- thanks to the tiny bar hidden in the old distillery's elevator, about which the designers quip: "The limited size of the cabin certainly makes it the smallest bar in the country."
It's perhaps surprising to have a tiny bar in what was once a building entirely devoted to the making of alcohol, but ultimately, a conversion like this makes sense: times change, and a building with lots of history and character being adapted for new and exciting things is a better option than having it torn down. To see more, visit KOGAA Studio.