The Adaptive Reuse of Warehouse and Factory Buildings into Residential Living Spaces in Wellington, New Zealand
Adaptive reuse does not only mean successfully putting new uses into an old shell. At best the impression is given that a building at the moment of its conversion has finally achieved its true destiny. Constructed during the industrial era, often utilitarian and non-descript in their design, warehouse and factory buildings were constructed to store and manufacture goods. Upon their obsolescence, due to containerisation, the closure of business, and subsequent dereliction through disrepair or disuse, these largely structurally sound buildings were left vacant until a cultural movement began in America, converting them into living and studio spaces. The adaptive reuse of these buildings resulted in a new programme, which was to provide residence and ‘store’ people. Much later, in the 1990s this movement spread to Wellington, New Zealand. This delay raises the issue of what makes a successful conversion of a warehouse or factory building to loft-style living space, and through which architectural approaches, criteria and methods may we examine these buildings? This thesis first examines pioneering examples of loft and warehouse living in SoHo, New York, from the initial subversive beginnings of the movement, when artists illegally occupied these spaces. It looks at the gentrification of neighbourhoods and how the loft eventually emerged as a highly sought after architectural living space, first in SoHo, New York before spreading globally to Wellington, New Zealand. Four Wellington warehouse and factory buildings that were converted into residential living spaces are examined and compared. The aim is to understand the conversion process and necessary strategies required to instil a new architectural programme within an existing warehouse or factory building, recognising the unique conditions in such converted architectural spaces. A reused, converted warehouse or former factory can acquire characteristics unique to that building: a certain patina of age, a residue of industrial history, imbedded qualities of surface, a unique architectural structure, as well as the location of the building itself. The case studies show how these imbedded characteristics, can be preserved when the building is converted, thereby retaining the building’s former history while providing a new function. This thesis then analyses whether any commonalities and differences in warehouse and factory living existed between Wellington and SoHo New York, in terms of the evolution of the cultural movement and architectural design. The thesis shows that successful approaches to conversion of factories or warehouses can both save the buildings from demolition, preserve and highlight their heritage and create an architecturally unique space, with inherent qualities that cannot be recreated in a new building. Thus, only upon conversion, can the building gain a sense that it has achieved its true destiny.