10 Preserved Archways That Honor Centuries of Past Construction

These arches have been preserved, inventively repurposed and reinvigorated with new functionalities.

Jennifer Geleff Jennifer Geleff

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The arch embodies a simple yet remarkable synthesis of weight, compression and construction. Synonymous with vaults, both are continuous curved forms that have been made visible and monumental by countless civilizations, and continue to possess an undeniably compelling and stately presence today.

Arches are multi-functional architectural elements that may act as divisive borders or, by contrast, a doorway or connective tissue. Additionally, they may support and bear the pressure of other activities that function above. Throughout this collection, arches are preserved, inventively repurposed and reinvigorated with new functionalities and aesthetic properties. The results of such preservation and adaptation are majestic, striking and incredibly diverse.

REFRAME by Norma arhitectura, Bontida, Romania

A submission to the Waiting for Revival competition, Norma arhitectura transformed the spaces of this ancient castle into a multi-functional hall and various workshop areas. The design reincorporates several qualities that belonged to the castle before it gradually fell into disrepair. For example, the collapsed vaults were recreated and illuminated using a hanging lighting installation.

Refurbishment Viaduct Arches by EM2N, Zurich, Switzerland

Originally used as a railway line in Zurich, the existing arch and viaduct infrastructure was transformed into a linear park that is now part of a “culture, work and leisure mile.” The reprogramming was initiated by the desire to transform a divisive element of the urban fabric into a connecting tissue. Previously a palpable spatial barrier, EM2N transformed the structure into one that links and upgrades bordering outdoor spaces.

Design Republic Design Commune by Neri & Hu, Shanghai, China

Located in central Shanghai, Neri & Hu created a space for designers and design patrons alike to admire each other’s work, exchange ideas and learn. The project takes a surgical approach to renovation: first the decaying wood and plaster were removed, next the vibrant red brickwork was restored, and finally, additional appendages were added to create new functions.

Ulumbarra Theatre by Y2 Architecture, Bendigo, Australia

Originally built in 1861, Ulumbarra provides a series of teaching spaces that span hospitality, music and other performing arts. The adaptation, driven by Y2 Architecture and a series of extensive stakeholders, ensures that the heritage site retains its civic purpose, while also enriching the experiences of community members.

Jaffa House by pitsou kedem architect, Tel Aviv, Israel

Over the years, this historic residence had undergone several transformations and additions that damaged the original quality of the building and its spaces. The central idea of this project was to restore the structure’s original characteristics, including the stone walls, segmented ceiling and cascading arches. The incorporation of modern and minimalist construction styles creates a balanced, romantic and harmonized final project.

Two Houses in Oropesa by Paredes Pedrosa Arquitectos, Oropesa, Spain

Before renovation, this project consisted of three very small houses that were each in a state of ruin. While the façade could not be altered due to heritage protections, Paredes Pedrosa Arquitectos transformed the interior space into two livable houses for a brother and sister. The properties share a single long patio, which opens up onto a 16th-Century church tower. In addition, each house possesses stunning views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks and olive trees.

Niños Conarte by Anagrama, Monterrey, Mexico

For this project, Conarte reached out to Anagrama in order to create a space that would foster a love of reading and play among children. The design proposal aimed to take into account the “untouchable nature of the building” and, on top of that, work to enhance it. The installation’s colorful aesthetic, contrasts some of the other industrial and antique elements of the building.

Restoration and Adaptation of a 16 century Chapel: an Event Space by Adam Bresnick Architects, Brihuega, Spain

Abandoned since 1969, the reconstruction of this 16th-century chapel tackled the complex ways that the original structure had suffered since. The philosophy that guided the intervention by Adam Bresnick Architects was to “respect time’s passing.” The fallen vaults that previously covered the space were recalled by new vaulted ceilings that were built from pine slats. Additionally, plaster mouldings from the original walls mimic the curvature and shapes of the original vaults.

Il Fondaco Dei Tedeschi by OMA, Venice, Italy

Il Fondaco Dei Tedeschi is a “historical palimpsest” of renovation, as its preservation now spans five centuries of construction techniques. The design, set forth by OMA, is both subtle and ambitious — it celebrates Fondaco’s tradition of vitality and adaptability, while also preserving another chapter of the building’s illustrious history. Most impressively, while honoring the building in all its integrity, the project “avoids nostalgic reconstructions of the past.”

Tenne by Thomas Kröger Architekten, Uckermark, Germany

Located in a small village north of Berlin, this 140-year-old barn was converted into a country house with an independent apartment. Redesigned by Thomas Kröger, the resulting project celebrates the house’s existing language while also adapting it and using new rules to reinvent itself. The inherent beauty of the exposed trusses, untreated wood and original archways remains a central element of the design.

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