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adaptive reuse is the answer to the post-covid era’s requirements
this proposal is an example of adaptive reuse design, transforming landmarked office skyscrapers — like the AT&T building in NY city by philip johnson, known also as 550 madison — into residential spaces that priorities tenants and the local community. through the design and programming of homes and public spaces, ahmed helal sought to offer an accessible well-rounded lifestyle adapting to the post-covid era’s requirements. adaptive reuse is the only path that can respond to these conditions, reviving antiquated buildings creating vibrant and essential structures that serve to alleviate the two fundamental architectural crises in the city: housing and public space.all images courtesy of ahmed helal
adapting obsolescence – case: 550 madison
since the construction of the equitable life assurance building in 1820, the office tower has become synonymous with white-collar productivity in new york city. in the subsequent 200 years, some 450 million sqft of office space has been constructed in the five boroughs, constituting over 10% of all office space within the united states. it wasn’t until the proliferation of the internet, collaborative communication platforms, and co-working spaces, that the office began to decentralize. then, in 2020, the global coronavirus pandemic completely disrupted the corporate hierarchy, as white-collar america transitioned to working from home, it became evident that the workforce could remain productive outside the office. it is now clear that there will never be a full return to pre-covid workplace normalcy. this paradigm shift has rendered the commercial office tower obsolete.
if this typology no longer holds value, then what should we do with the obsolete building stock? this is the question that ahmed helal (found here) tried to tackle. as they mentioned, to simply demolish it would be wasteful, arrogant, and short-sighted, for two reasons. first, all constructions have inherent value simply in that they exist and were an expenditure of finite resources that can never be replaced. to dispose of them is to erase those resources forever. new york city alone produces over three million tons of construction waste annually, only 35% of which is returned to the production stream. second, it is precisely this outdated building stock that gives new york its identity.
‘adapting obsolescence – case: 550 madison’ won the second prize for bee breeders’ most recent skyscraper competition, SKYHIVE 2021. this skyscraper challenge was the fourth annual architecture competition by bee breeders, seeking innovative concepts for an iconic high-rise tower. designs that propose unique structural systems, innovative ideas related to sustainability, new facade typologies, forms, and building functions were encouraged.
name: adapting obsolescence – case: 550 madison
designer: ahmed helal
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edited by: christina petridou | designboom