If old buildings could talk, they would have myriad tales to tell: of affection and neglect, job changes and unemployment, health problems, and, sometimes, unexpected healing. Of course, buildings can’t speak for themselves – but the renovations and conversions in this issue reveal quite a lot about their history. In most cases, they were accompanied by a dramatic change of use: the Schönburg in Bern, once the headquarters of the Swiss Post Office, was transformed into a residential and hotel complex by Theo Hotz Partner and Marazzi + Paul. In Memmingen, Heilergeiger adapted a villa for use as a daycare centre, while in Barcelona, the Fabra i Coats textile factory now houses 46 artists’ apartments and a sports hall according to a design by Roldán & Berengué. In Paderborn, a former Capuchin monastery, later a state hospital, was converted into office space; David Chipperfield Architects Berlin redesigned the building complex for a DIY company.
The two residential buildings featured in this issue show that radical interventions in the building fabric may be needed even if the building is used for the same purpose. In Terrassa, Spain, H Arquitectes reactivated a terraced home that was vacant for over 100 years. Adjaye Associates undertook a similar feat with Mole House in London, which now serves as the home and studio of artist Sue Webster. Obviously such a building, which had been systematically destroyed by its previous occupant, cannot be handled with kid gloves. This is also in line with the credo of the Amsterdam-based architect and expert in adaptive reuse, Wessel de Jonge. As he states in an interview with Anneke Bokern in this issue, “It’s as important to me that a building can be well utilized as whether the heritage lobby thinks it’s perfect.”