Above: The sleek, Japanese-inspired Buiksloterdraaibrug interior sits nearer the edge of the city.

Below: The interior design takes its cues from the shape and style of each respective house; Kortjewantsbrug maintains the circular perspective as well as a circular bed.

Selati River in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the hotel pays tribute to the history of the park (this was where the train would stop overnight during the first tourist visits in the 1920s). As well as recycling the train carriages, the designers scoured the local area for structures they could repurpose during the building process. They planted around 100 indigenous trees on the site and added solar panelling to ensure long-term sustainability. Because this is a national park, they went to special efforts to ensure there was minimal impact on the environment.

“A very important part of the project will also be the way in which it will improve the lives of people in the local surrounding communities, who will be empowered through world-class training, skills development initiatives and, ultimately, job opportunities,” said Judiet Barnes, concession general manager of Kruger Shalati. While not all ageing structures are suitable contenders for adaptive reuse, still less for conversion into hotels, there is a growing acceptance that urban planning

will need to shift towards a circular means of building and living if we are to decarbonise our cities. “Luckily, the industry is finally waking up to the need to re-image our urban futures to decouple quality of life from fossil fuel dependency,” says Haccou. “In response, we see lots of innovation pouring into the technical challenges: how to design for disassembly, how to keep things modular, how to produce and store green energy, how to insulate homes, whether to use hydrogen or not.” He cautions, however, that we aren’t seeing enough focus on the social implications of this shift – thinking beyond buildings and into business models. After all, there’s no point designing for disassembly if the owner has no financial incentive to take the building apart. Similarly, he feels designers need to think about their buildings less as isolated units, and more as parts of a system. At Space&Matter, the neighbourhood itself (as opposed to a particular building) is the starting point for many adaptive reuse projects.

“In general, we put forward the neighbourhood as the unit of change,” says Haccou. “Neighbourhoods are spatial units that people can relate to, where we can combine innovative approaches to circularity with a high quality of life. At the neighbourhood scale, it becomes possible to invest in innovative new approaches to circularity because you have a critical mass that lacks at the scale of the dwelling.”

Circular economy

Space&Matter has developed two prototype ‘circular neighbourhoods’ in Amsterdam Noord, in which shared services like mobility, energy, water and waste are treated as parts of a holistic whole. While the SWEETS hotel was a little different, in that its cottages are spread out across the city, the company was able to collaborate with existing facilities nearby. The hope is to promote sustainability through place- based systems, as well as working directly with communities to ensure their needs are part of the project brief. “We prototype with them – experimenting and then scaling up; testing and iterating; failing and learning,” says Haccou. “A project is never finished, it is constantly evolving. How many architects go back to visit their masterpieces to see how people actually use them? A lot could be learned from this alone.” Sensitively done, adaptive reuse is not just a means of reimagining history – it also pays attention to the needs of the local community in the here and now. Through layering past and present together, these hotels have a special charm a new build could never hope to emulate. It’s a bonus that they’re better for the environment too. ●

58 Hotel Management International /

Both: Mirjam Bleeker

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