Adaptive Reuse in Nature

Two non-profit organizations are moving into a shared facility that consists of a 150-year old gasometer structure and a more recently built storage addition with a small connecting building. A preliminary study of symbiotic relationships in nature serves as a launching point for understanding the qualities of a mutually-beneficial relationship.

Site / Context

The current configuration of the building establishes the primary axis of the site as internally focused between the two buildings. By removing the upper level of the connecting building, the natural axis of the site (connecting Manton Avenue and the Atlantic Mills complex) is re-established. This simple gesture transforms the site from a boundary to a node, which in turn engages the surrounding neighborhood.


The building-to-building axis is reestablished with coordinating entrance ways. These concrete tunnels extrude beyond the existing structure, framing the space between them and aligning the interior spaces. Further, they operate as transitional zones which orient the interior experience and negotiate the interior / exterior boundary.


On the upper level of the gasometer, a raised floor resolves the variant floor levels between the structures. In addition, this move provides storage for the flexible-use space without destroying the simple geometry of the gasometer. The storage is accessed via hinged plywood floor panels which are ringed by a concrete flooring with an embedded heating element, acting as a heat-sink for this space and the bicycle shop below, as well as improving the acoustics.

Interior Response

Once inside, the same considerations make themselves apparent in different ways. An open staircase provides vertical circulation, while bringing light to the lower level. The flexible office space can be screened off for privacy or opened to accommodate larger meetings. Two studio spaces flank a service core and provide for expanded use of the space. All wall dimensions are based on a 4-foot module to minimize waste of plywood sheets used for wall-construction.

This project was completed as part of a design studio at the Rhode Island School of Design.

school — Rhode Island School of Design
— Symboisis Graduate Studio
instructor — Markus Berger
— Providence, RI
scale — 6000 sf
date — Fall 2009