Rescuing Architecture: Stories of Buildings Saved from Demolition
Regarding urban development, the choice between demolition and adaptive reuse holds far-reaching implications. From debates around the cultural and historical significance of structure to the environmental impact of the process of razing and rebuilding, compared to the cost of preserving and adapting, the matter of demolitions has ignited the architectural community to come together and ask for more responsible assessment strategies in hopes of rediscovering the value of existing structures. This article gathers some of the stories of buildings facing the threat of demolition and the processes that led to their rescue.
San Siro Stadium in Milan, Italy
Milan’s iconic Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, known as San Siro, has been spared from demolition by the Regional Commission for the Cultural Heritage of Lombardy, citing its cultural significance. The stadium, home to AC Milan and Inter Milan, was slated for replacement by “The Cathedral,” a new stadium by Populous. The structure, built in 1926, underwent a series of modifications and expansions, leading to its now recognizable image of the upper ring supported by spiraling towers, a feature recognized as ‘holding cultural interest.’
Demolished and Rebuilt: The Identity of Architectural Replicas
The Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology in Berlin, Germany
Completed in 1974, the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology, designed by Hermann Fehling and Daniel Gogel, was originally a part of the Free University of Berlin. After facing the threat of demolition, a rescue campaign was started in an attempt to save the building along with its neighboring brutalist structure, the Mäusebunker. The campaign was successful, as its owning company, Charité, announced a plan to keep and preserve the building. In January 2021, it was listed as a historical monument, ensuring its protection, according to SOSBrutalism.
Mäusebunker in Berlin, Germany
The Charité’s former animal laboratories, known as the Mäusebunker building, have gained monument protection, safeguarding it from long-standing demolition plans. The brutalist structure, formerly used as laboratories for animal testing, has been unused since 2009. Led by Christoph Rauhut, the State Monuments Office initiated a model procedure to determine potential future uses. Considering their brand potential, it was concluded that the laboratories could be restored for valuable purposes in Berlin.
M&S Store on Oxford Street, London, UK
Marks and Spencer’s bid to demolish and reconstruct its flagship store on Oxford Street in the West End of London has been denied, after a campaign called out the carbon footprint of the redevelopment scheme. Secretary of State Michael Gove rejected the plan, according to The Guardian, forcing the company to review their options in favor of repurposing and converting the structure.
Shell Headquarters in Aberdeen, Scotland
While no decision has been announced, architects, academics, and climate activists are calling on Shell not to demolish their modernist headquarters building in Aberdeen, Scotland. The five-story building served as the company’s main headquarters from where it operated for over 50 years. After announcing plans to demolish rather than repurpose the structure, an open letter urges the company to reconsider, citing concerns about the carbon emissions associated with destroying and replacing the concrete structure.
Despite the rising consciousness of the value intrinsic in maintaining and preserving modern buildings, demolition plans still threaten several structures, including Kenzo Tange’s famous Kagawa Gymnasium in Japan and Louis Kahn’s Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). While initial demolition plans were scrapped in 2021 following global protests, the management of the institution announced a reversal of the decision, citing severe structural damages.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 25, 2023.