Bread and circuses: museums in former granaries

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The capabilities of modern architecture make it possible to revive abandoned industrial buildings, including empty granaries

Taizhou Contemporary Art Museum

Taizhou Contemporary Art Museum, designed by Shanghai bureau Atelier Deshaus, is located in a former granary. On the territory of a large industrial zone, there are factories and warehouses in the style of brutal Soviet architecture. The renovation project affected a total of 2500 sq. meters of area.

The southern facade of the museum has a concave structure, reminiscent of the industrial past of the space. Eight exhibition halls are located at different levels. Guests of the museum make a smooth spiral ascent, the result of which is access to an observation deck with a picturesque view of the Feng Mountains.

Ningbo Art Museum

Italian architect Massimo Roj and his bureau CMR designed the Duao Art Museum. In the past, the remodeled building was used as an army grain storage and food warehouse.

The architectural bureau managed to connect the reconstructed building and the picturesque natural landscape. Three floors and seven “wings” are spread out in different directions: this constructive decision was made after analyzing natural light. The exhibition area on the ground floor is surrounded by a garden – this is how the architects broke the border between “natural” and “built”: one smoothly flows into the other.


Museum designed by Thomas Heatherwick in Cape Town

The former granary with giant silos dates back to 1924 and is still considered the tallest building south of the Sahara. Dilapidated in 2001, abandoned to looting by looters and birds, the devastated structure was rebuilt by British architect Thomas Heatherwick, thanks to a global reconstruction. The Silo hotel with faceted windows was opened in the elevator part in the spring of 2017, and on September 22, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), located in 42 giant silos, opened its doors to the first visitors.

Some of the pipes have been cut to the ground to create 6,000 square meters of exhibition space, spiral staircases, a sculpture garden and the heart of the museum – a cathedral-like atrium with a glass roof and natural light that will literally take your breath away. The museum was created with the support of Jochen Seitz, whose private collection of contemporary African art became the basis of the permanent exhibition.


Museum of Western Regions in the Gobi Desert

In the northwest of the Gobi Desert, 30 kilometers from the city of Urumqi in China, architects from Yudian design turned a former grain processing plant in the middle of the last century into the Dong Zhuang Museum of Western regions. The building has an area of ​​almost 8,000 sq. meters harmoniously fits into the environment, takes into account the structure and ecological diversity of local wildlife. One gets the impression that a huge white stone has rolled down from a nearby mountain.

Only local materials were used during the construction: sand, cement, fittings and a small amount of glass. Thick walls and small windows protect the interiors from the scorching desert sun in summer and the piercing cold in winter. The northern walls are additionally fortified from strong winds, and in the east and south you can freely admire the opening landscapes. The architects made the most of natural, not only solar, but also moonlight.

Armani Museum in Milan

The Armani Museum in Milan is housed in a former grain elevator dating back to the 1950s. Modern exhibition space of 4500 sq. meters of the square tells about the professional experience of the brand, captures many peoples and cultures. During the reconstruction, the original shape of the building was preserved, which directly correlates with the views of Giorgio Armani, his desire for uniformity.

The interior open space was designed based on the layout of the basilica. The central staircase has become a unifying element, allowing one to appreciate the entire scale of the building. The overall ambience is complemented by black-painted ceilings that reveal the true structure of floors and communications.

Read more about the museum in a separate article here.

With overpopulation, countries around the world are striving to redevelop former industrial sites for the benefit of their residents. More and more cities are entering the era of renovation, and therefore not only the reanimated granaries, but also future projects deserve attention.

Amber Museum in Gdansk

In the historic center of Gdansk there is an island with old granaries. After the Second World War, this space, unlike the rest of the city, was not rebuilt. Until now, the island remained a semi-abandoned area.

Piotr Szulc, a graduate of the Gdansk Polytechnic University, presented a project for the development of an industrial area as his thesis. The young architect proposes the opening of exhibition areas, a public garden, business and educational premises, the Amber Museum and thematic workshops, a hotel, etc.

Art gallery in Norway

Two Barcelona-based architecture firms MX_SI and Mestres Wåge Arquitectes have won the competition for the renovation of an abandoned 1935 granary in Kristiansand, Norway. Construction began in the spring of 2017. The building will house an art gallery and a cultural center. First of all, the authors of the project approached with full responsibility and respect the elevator itself, one of the first built in the country. Architectural bureaus have tried to preserve the structural and sculptural features of the building as much as possible.

In the former elevator, a diverse complex urban space with different event, program and climatic characteristics will be organized. The base of concrete pipes will be almost completely cut off to organize large multi-level halls on the lower floors. It will house a new museum, art school, hotel and art coworking space. The topside of the silo pipes will be preserved and the sky will be visible through some of them. The upper deck of the building will give visitors a panoramic view of the city, from here it will be possible to directly look into the lower halls.

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Cultural Center in Amsterdam

Dutch bureau NL Architects has proposed to convert abandoned silos in Amsterdam into a modern public space. The towers will be able to accommodate two theaters with rehearsal rooms, exhibition areas, music studios and design spaces, a hotel, educational institutions, a climbing wall, and a cafe. The upper level will be equipped with a restaurant with panoramic views of the city and an open roof terrace.

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