Adaptive reuse: an architectural game-changer

Adaptive reuse: an architectural game-changer

Adaptive reuse: an architectural game-changer by Norman Cescut, founder and CEO of Desita

Repurposed restaurants and hotels are amassing a growing fanbase, checking the sustainability and authenticity boxes that are priorities for so many of today’s visitors. Norman Cescut, founder and CEO of Desita, explains why a taste of the past, served with a side of innovation in a restored space, is proving to be a recipe for success.

The hospitality industry has witnessed a remarkable shift toward adaptive reuse. Significantly, this practice, which involves repurposing existing abandoned structures into vibrant hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues, is breathing new life into urban areas.

New look for neighborhoods

Thanks to both public aid and private investments, there are countless examples of pre-existing abandoned structures that have been adapted for new use through redevelopment interventions. Milan is an excellent example. In the last few years, numerous neighborhoods across this city have had an extensive change of face, leading to them quickly becoming highly sought-after localities. These include, among others, CityLife, Nolo and Porta Nuova. The latter is home to the famous ‘Bosco Verticale’ (Vertical Forest), a complex comprising two residential skyscrapers, designed by Boeri Studio.

Also worth mentioning is the great ‘Regeneration City’ project in Cosenza. As part of this far-reaching initiative, a broad range of abandoned or derelict buildings, including prisons and sports halls, have been converted into cultural centers, co-working spaces and concert halls, among others, giving them a new look and function.

In sync with sustainability

The ongoing international drive to prioritize sustainability, combined with an influx of funding in recent years, has paved the way for a welcome acceleration in the field of adaptive reuse, while a´rming the emergence of new values and fresh social priorities. Adaptive reuse undoubtedly aligns well with current ethical ideas and others relating to urban decorum. However, there is much more to it; this movement has a concrete influence on the attractiveness and positioning of brands. In a positive move, the challenges involved have been embraced with enthusiasm by those leading the way in hospitality across the board, from the strategists to the architects and designers.

Leading by example

An outstanding example of this trend is the Interno Marche Design Hotel, located in Villa Gabrielli. This impressive building was once the residence of the entrepreneur Nazareno Gabrielli, creator of a prestigious Italian fashion brand. An innovative visionary, distinguished entrepreneur and patron, Franco Moschini transformed this historical site into a unique destination that seamlessly blends hospitality and a niche exhibition. The hotel’s 30 unique rooms are adorned with bespoke designs, reflecting a harmonious fusion of historic and modern identity.

Similarly, the 14th-century Castle of San Gaudenzio, situated near Milan, epitomizes the adaptive reuse movement. This landmark is part of a circuit of important castles and historic mansions, namely: Mornico Losana Castle; Montesegale Castle; Cigognola Castle; Casale Denari; Robbio Castle; Tenuta Travaglino; and Castello di Santa Giuletta. Today it is a Relais Hotel, equipped with 43 rooms and a restaurant led by Chef Federico Sgorbini. Showcasing the rich culinary heritage of Italy, this grand establishment oªers an experience that resonates with tradition, history and local flavors. Exuding centuries-old charm, the castle relays its essence as
a noble residence, providing a unique environment steeped in history, where the echoes of tradition harmonize with the landscape.

Thirdly, the launch of Centrale Gourmet on Isola d’Elba represents a breathtaking juxtaposition of history and contemporary rejuvenation. This impressive culinary hub was created inside the island’s abandoned former power plant as part of a comprehensive

Old meets new

Indeed, the symbiotic relationship between restaurants, retail food formats and the adaptive reuse trend is flourishing. As diners increasingly prioritize sustainability and authenticity, repurposed eateries offer a compelling proposition: a taste of the past served with a side of innovation, all within the walls of a lovingly restored space. In this marriage of old and new, restaurants not only feed our bodies, but also nourish our souls, reminding us of the timeless appeal of good food and great company in spaces infused with history and character.

Choosing a hotel or a restaurant that proudly preserves the historical memory of a building, and at the same time has a new story to share, can be highly stimulating for guests. It facilitates the creation of a deeper connection with that specific location.

If, as is often put forward today, we assume that strategy is leading design, the mission that consultants and creatives face is certainly a highly ambitious one. It requires problem-solving and creativity skills to handle the many possible implications involved in balancing heritage, aesthetics and functionality. On top of this, there is today’s broad-based drive to minimize waste, conserve resources and integrate them with eco-friendly technologies by prioritizing flexible layouts and multifunctional spaces to meet evolving needs. It goes without saying, of course, that the business must also function effectively and generate profit.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of challenges, from conservation regulations and zoning issues, to bureaucratic difficulties and the need for extensive renovations. A collaborative approach between professionals, entrepreneurs and institutions is essential to help address these critical issues, with all involved putting individual issues to one side and staying focused on the common good.

From a personal perspective

On a personal level, I see adaptive reuse as a win-win-win concept. It’s good for the environment, celebrates history and culture, and enriches communities. Adaptive reuse means having the honor and privilege to continue a story and, at the same time, give entrepreneurs, brands and institutions the opportunity to invest in a more sustainable way by prolonging the value of the legacy. It’s a concept that I hope continues to gain momentum and shape the future of urban development for years to come.

Norman Cescut, founder and CEO of Desita

Norman Cescut,
founder and CEO of Desita

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