After a century of unparalleled building activity there are not only more buildings than ever, but also more buildings than ever waiting for a new lease of life. Depreciated office buildings, former factories, out-of-date elderly homes, hospitals divested during mergers: there are many examples, in the Netherlands and elsewhere, of buildings whose material lifespan has exceeded their anticipated service life. The unprecedented building activity of the last one hundred years has been propelled by, and has contributed to, an increasingly rapid obsolescence of buildings. But even if buildings have lost their original purpose or initial appeal – or both – they are often not beyond their shelf date. Despite this, demolition is still a default solution for buildings that have fallen from grace. Reuse, however, is becoming more and more prevalent, if only because it doesn’t make sense to waste all those buildings, neither economically nor ecologically.
Still, many vacant buildings are considered to be difficult to reuse. The transformations of diederendirrix show that this alleged difficulty is perhaps less of an obstacle than an incentive for original interventions which otherwise wouldn’t have been taken into consideration.
The practice of Paul Diederen and Bert Dirrix has designed numerous transformation projects, covering almost every conceivable category and aspect of reuse. They range from careful restorations where the original building is maintained for a function similar to its original program, to complete overhauls to accommodate new programs. In between total preservation and complete make-over, there are infinite options for restoring, repurposing, restructuring and regenerating buildings and sites.
Excerpt from: Hans Ibelings and diederendirrix architects, Make it Anew (Amsterdam/Montreal: Architecture Observer, 2018)