Making imaginative use of unused buildings


Anyone who was lucky enough to catch the recent RIBA exhibition ‘Forgotten Spaces’ can’t help but have been inspired by the clever and imaginative ideas put forward to reuse and reinvigorate the capitals ‘bad teeth’: those sites and spaces that are currently vacant, misused, overlooked or ignored.

Just a short step from the exhibition site is perhaps one of the largest “forgotten” spaces in London: the Waterloo Eurostar Terminal. Whilst there are proposals to bring Grimshaw’s prize winning architectural masterpiece back into operational use in the near future its current temporary use for the theatrical performance of the Railway Children is somewhat ingenious (a play, about trains, in a real train station with a real live steam train!) and reinforces the South Bank as a centre of culture and entertainment. But could we do more?

How many other large empty buildings are there in the UK which with a bit of imagination could be turned temporarily or permanently to other uses? There have been lots of ideas to utilise vacant shops for community use but less well known is the use of the top floor of a multi-storey car park in Peckham for housing art installations and a bar and disused tube stations and government buildings for film locations.

Recently, the idea of urban farming has been gathering apace. Would it be feasible to turn a disused office block into a temporary greenhouse given it comes with a ready water and light supply and lifts to transport equipment around easily.

Hopefully the new localism agenda will help propel some of these ideas forward bringing economic activity back to our under-utilised building stock until demand picks up for them to return to their intended uses.

If you have any ideas of buildings that are presently empty that could be reused for other purposes, let us know.

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2 thoughts on “Making imaginative use of unused buildings

  1. The only limit to such ideas is imagination itself. But why stop at buildings? Buildings are typically private spaces on private land, but the highway is well within the public realm. People have long been questioning the priorities that our highways have been getting, and the movement is slowly gathering pace. Should the highway always be treated as a conduit for through motor traffic? Should we always accept the price we pay as a society for the significant disbenefits of maximising the capacity of our roadspace as transport corridors for traffic? Some examples…

    Parking lots into piazzas
    http://openplans.org/case-studies/pearl-street/

    Public Plaza Initiative
    http://streetswiki.wikispaces.com/Public+Plaza+Initiative

    Is car parking the best use of valuable urban space?
    http://is.gd/ecUgK

    Streets for children
    http://is.gd/ecUiZ

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