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Reclamation Nation: 7 Awesome Instances of Upcycled Architecture

With environmental concerns propelling a concerted drive toward more sustainable construction processes, notable instances of designers utilizing salvaged materials in new and inventive ways have proliferated over the last decade. The upcycling phenomenon has long been big business in industrial design, with luxury furniture showrooms such as Espasso illustrating that the textured patina of reclaimed materials can make for stylish high-end pieces that belie their humble components.


Asturias Chair by Carlos Motta. Via Espasso.

Now, though, that raw aesthetic — laying bare the history of its materials in an honest, celebratory fashion — is increasingly in vogue in the realm of architecture. Here, we look at seven examples of buildings which have harnessed ‘materials with memory’ to produce chic hotels, offices, and restaurant interiors:

TuboHotel by T3Arc, Teoztlán, Mexico



T3Arc adapted a series of huge concrete pipes to create these hotel rooms in the picturesque surroundings of the Siera del Tepozteco in Mexico. The eight-foot-diameter capsule-style rooms are stacked in certain parts of the site to create pavilion-like pyramids of accommodation, and the exterior of each cylinder is left exposed with its rough, textured finish.


Van Alen Books by LOT-EK, New York



Avant-garde design studio LOT-EK are perhaps best known for their inventive use of shipping containers — see the APAP OpenSchool in Anyan, South Korea — but they have also dabbled in the art of upcycling on their home territory, with 70 recycled doors making up this vibrant staircase-cum-reading-platform in the previous iteration of the Van Alen Institute.


Reclaimed Modern by Dwell Development, Seattle



This contemporary residence in Washington state features a plethora of salvaged construction materials: the pathway is made out of old public sidewalk slabs while the façades were built using timber and corrugated metal from a derelict barn in the nearby Willamette Valley.


Solar Pavilion by SITU Fabrication, New York



The Solar Pavilion was the result of a design experiment in which workers were given a set of materials and prescribed rules and left to build in an improvised fashion. The finished pavilion is composed of salvaged cardboard carpet tubes that provide degrees of shade and structural support, with each element relying on those around it for stability.


Prana Corporate Headquarters by Mobile Office Architects, Carlsbad, Calif.



The polished interior of this plush office space in California belies the origins of its primary material: over 35,000 feet of timber boards was salvaged by demolished shade houses in the vicinity to create the louvered walls, which serve to create an upmarket aesthetic within a previously plain concrete tilt-up warehouse.


Amin Shipping Container Library by dpavilion architects, Batu, Indonesia



Upcycling shipping containers is nothing new, of course, but dpavilion took the practice to a whole new level in the realm of public architecture with the construction of this multi-chromatic library in Batu. Eight containers provided a low-cost solution for extra space where the cantilevered structures serve as reading rooms and study areas for use by local children.


Bang Brewing by Alchemy Architects, Saint Paul, Minn.



Alchemy Architects are known for utilizing recycling and reuse in many projects, leading the way in sustainable design on a budget. In 2013, they constructed a new home for the Bang Brewing Companyin the form of a “prefab” grain bin of corrugated steel with much of the interior finished with mismatched salvaged timber from local agricultural buildings. [previously]