How better to celebrate the weekend than a shiny, pretty example of adaptive reuse? The future of many heritage buildings relies on clever architects providing clever solutions for buildings that no longer have a use in their old form. Not only does it save many buildings, but it is a much more environmentally friendly solution than pulling buildings down.
This example is a beautiful bookshop, El Ateneo Grand Splendid, in Buenos Aires, which was originally built as a theatre in 1919. It was converted into a bookshop 15 years ago by architect Fernando Manzone. The seating was removed, but the balconies and carvings, stage curtains and ceiling frescos were preserved. You can sit in the theatre boxes to read, how fabulous is that? The old stage is a cafe, and the shop is visited by around 1 million customers a year to browse its 21,000 square feet showroom.
What makes it so successful is the careful preservation of detail – detail that a bookshop doesn’t technically need to be a bookshop, but that acknowledges the past of the building and allows it to speak for itself about its former role.
Buenos Aires apparently has more bookshops per inhabitant than any other city in the world, according to a study by the World Cities Culture Forum. The El Ateneo Grand Splendid has commented that while they have a website, they find that people still much prefer to come into the store to actually purchase. You can see why.