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Demolishing old buildings and replacing them with new ones is often a losing proposition from an ecological point of view, because many building materials cannot be recycled. Renovation, urban mining and creative reuse are therefore important means for an ecologically sustainable building industry.

By hicklvesting.

Urban Mining: Rusted Mill House in Kardamyli. Verrostetes Mühlengebäude (Griechenland)
Urban Mining: Rusted Mill House (Greece). Photo: Yiorgis Yerolymbos. © Detale Architecture and Engineering

Questions about what sustainability means also inevitably discuss social values. One such value is the newness of a product or object. This has so far been seen as an achievement, per se. This notion is particularly problematic in the construction industry, where it leads to widespread demolition of existing structures that must make way for new, supposedly better buildings. A whole series of major modern structures from the post-war period, which once symbolised a generation’s spirit of optimism, are now up for consideration. From an environmental perspective in particular, the principle of demolishing and rebuilding is now no longer productive in many cases, as this goes hand in hand with an enormous waste of energy and building materials such as concrete and steel, which are difficult to recycle.

However, a change in thinking is now under way. Buildings are being redeveloped, renovated and extended with architectural interventions to meet modern-day needs. There is new concern emerging for what already exists. Urban mining, which involves using existing building stock as the raw material for new buildings, has become highly popular. And, importantly, the European Commission published its Renovation Wave strategy as part of the Green Deal in autumn 2020. This aims to encourage major upgrades in the energy performance of public and private buildings.

Urban Mining: Forschungslabor in Urla, Izmir (Türkei) von ONZ Architects
Algorithm Factory in Urla in Izmir (Turkey). Photo: H. Gürel Kutlular © ONZ Architects

Reusing existing structures is no longer a niche area – it has become a phenomenon that can be observed around the world. This can also be seen in the winning projects at the ICONIC AWARDS: Innovative Architecture 2021. The Chinese firm Moguang Studio has transformed a former garment factory in Beizhuang into a centre for young people. Indoor play areas, learning spaces, family accommodation and a restaurant have been integrated into the historic structure with contemporary fittings. In the Greek town of Kardamyli, Detale Architecture and Engineering have restored a farmhouse from the mid-19th century, with additions in COR-TEN steel deliberately standing out from the existing building. Adamas Architect Ateliers took a particularly delicate approach for the Ogumo Casa Kyoto Machiya Guesthouse project in Kyoto. They were able to repair all of the components of the historic wooden house and so preserve a place full of cultural and spiritual traditions. In Urla, Izmir in Turkey, ONZ Architects converted an abandoned soap factory into a research lab for an energy company. And in Singen in Baden-Württemberg, GMS Architekten has revitalised the Sparkasse bank headquarters by redesigning the façades – not just for the people who work there but also for the urban context. The building’s new look now makes harmonious references to the diverse architecture in the area.


The ICONIC AWARDS: Innovative Architecture honour architectural highlights and make industry trends visible. In 2021, some outstanding examples of Urban mining and adaptive reuse were awarded:

Youth Activity Center
Youth activity centre in Beizhuang (China). Photo: Xi Zhi. © Moguang Studio
Rusted Mill House in Kardamyli. Verrostetes Mühlengebäude (Griechenland)
Rusted Mill House (Greece). Photo: Yiorgis Yerolymbos. © Detale Architecture and Engineering
Forschungslabor in Urla, Izmir (Türkei) von ONZ Architects
Algorithm Factory in Urla, Izmir (Turkey). Photo: H. Gürel Kutlular © ONZ Architects
Sparkassenhauptstelle von GMS Architekten
Sparkasse bank headquarters. Photo: Hanspeter Schiess Fotografie. © GMS Architekten

The ICONIC AWARDS 2022: Innovative Architecture

The ICONIC AWARDS 2022: Innovative Architecture honour the best international achievements and communication concepts in architecture, product and interior design.

Architects, interior designers, but also the real estate sector and the design and manufacturing industries are invited. Show that your projects and products make you one of the trendsetters in your sector! Architects, engineers, specialist planners, agencies and design offices, companies in the construction and real estate industry as well as manufacturers in the design and production industry can submit their projects until 3 June. You can benefit from the Early Bird rate until 8 April!


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