Adaptive Reuse of Industrial Heritage Façades

Exploring design complexity management with a case form Istanbul



With the developments in production, industrial facilities lost their function and were abandoned over time. The most frequent and often the most sustainable way of ensuring the conservation of these industrial heritage facilities is adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse can be defined as a process that transforms an existing structure into a new function, which increases its capacity, performance and efficiency, offering environmental, social, cultural, and economic benefits. In this process, interventions to the façade system are of great importance to preserve the historical identity of the structure and supply the new function and performance requirements. In this context, decision makers need to consider complex criteria while approaching the façade design in the reuse process of industrial heritage, such as compatibility, reversibility, degree of intervention, loading posed on infrastructure, and constructability. Numerous components and interconnections, interactions or interdependencies are often included in this process, these are difficult to describe, understand, predict, manage, design, and/or change and increase the system design complexity.

The primary objectives of this study are to define system design complexity parameters of the façade design in the reuse process of industrial heritage and to present a detailed case study description on system design complexity management. At first, a literature review is conducted to define system design complexity parameters. Then, the façade design of reused Silahtaraga Energy Power Plant boiler houses is analyzed in the context of complexity parameters, based on the literature review and interviews with the design team. The case is important for being the first power plant in Istanbul, which served until 1983 and being reused as a university facility (Figure 1). Since boiler houses were only designed to cover the boilers, the buildings consist of a light steel structural system and a thin façade without any floors or internal partitions. During the adaptive reuse design, a new structural system and a secondary façade were added inside the buildings. The findings provide insightful perspectives to define, understand and overcome design complexity. Many of the design challenges faced by the designers and the solutions, which they found, contain valuable lessons for any designer attempting adaptive reuse.


Photo of Bahar Basarir, PhD

Bahar Basarir, PhD

PhD from Research Assistant to Assistant Professor

Istanbul Technical University

Hatice Yasemin Cakir

Research Assistant



One of the effects of the industrial revolution was large-scale urbanization, which triggered the development of cities along with the industry. Many industrial buildings were constructed in this era to house industrial operations, activities and provide the necessary conditions for workers and the operation of industrial utilities. However, the change in the mode of production in the second half of the 20th century caused the industrial buildings, which were the representatives of the first steps of industrialization, to lose their function and to be abandoned over time. These buildings, which are the remains of our industrial culture, constitute our industrial heritage and make up a unique segment of the existing building stock with their historical, technological, social, architectural, or scientific values.

With the expansion of cities, industrial heritage buildings remain in the city center and occupy strategic locations. Despite their undeniable values, these buildings are widely recognized as a major source of urban problems due to their abandonment (Amiri, 2020; Li et al., 2018). Therefore, promoting the reuse of industrial heritage buildings is expected to contribute to urban regeneration and preservation of heritage, providing a wide range of economic, environmental, social, and cultural benefits (Aigwi et al., 2019; Bullen & Love, 2011; Langston et al., 2008; Li et al., 2018; Yung & Chan, 2012).

In the mid‐1960s, adaptive reuse became a preservation‐related strategy (Bond, 2011), which is recognized as the most dynamic strategy of preservation due to the required changes (Compton, 2005). In general, the term adaptive reuse refers to a process that transforms an existing structure for a function other than which it was built or designed for (Amiri, 2020). However, the change of function and new regulations to be complied with often necessitate refurbishment and/or complete renovation of the heritage building to increase its capacity, performance, and effectiveness (Bullen & Love, 2011). The study of Kincaid (2003) identified two main types of physical changes that must be considered in this process, those to the internal spaces and layout, and those to the external building fabric, namely façades.

Interventions to the façade system are of great importance to preserve the historical identity of the building and supply the new function and performance requirements. For a successful reuse design, a proper balance between preservation and change is desirable but difficult to achieve (Bloszies, 2013; Bond, 2011). Participants of the adaptive reuse process from a variety of disciplines need to consider complex criteria while approaching the façade reuse design, which makes the consensus difficult (Almeida & Ferreira, 2018; Bond, 2011; Kincaid, 2003). Numerous components and interconnections, interactions, or interdependencies are often included in this process, these are difficult to describe, understand, predict, manage, design, and/or change and increase the design complexity.

A preliminary literature review in the field showed that design complexity is one of the major barriers to adaptive reuse (Bond, 2011; Kurul, 2007; Mallawaarachchi et al., 2018). Developing approaches to overcome this barrier is significant as apart from being an important urban problem, the abandoned industrial heritage buildings are under the threat of demolition. In the case of Turkey, 35% of 643 industrial facilities built from the 15th century to 1980 have survived, of which only 26% have participated in the reuse process and 11% are abandoned (Çakır, 2021). It indicates that industrial buildings are mostly in danger of demolition which causes the extinction of a unique kind of cultural heritage.

In the context of its important role in the success of industrial heritage buildings adaptive reuse and the listed problems above, it has been determined that there is a need for studies that will facilitate the complexity management of the façade reuse design process. The reuse design shows the characteristics of wicked problems for not having certainty regarding the definition of the problem and a formulation of it. Solving that kind of problem demands constant reformulations and reframings of design parameters throughout the design process (e Silva, 2018). Managing this design environment requires predicting the parameters that have interdependencies or possible conflicts, which are defined as complexity parameters in this study. Therefore, the primary objectives of this study are to define the complexity parameters of the industrial heritage façade reuse design and to present a detailed case study description on façade reuse design complexity management. Thus, an insightful perspective to define, understand and overcome design complexity will be provided.


In this two-stage study, first, a comprehensive literature review was conducted to determine the complexity parameters of the façade adaptive reuse design. Design phases, tasks, stakeholders, factors of decision making

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Adaptive Reuse Design Complexity Management of Silahtaraga Energy Power Plant Boiler Houses Façades

A project analysis was conducted in this research to present how complexity parameters of façade reuse design could be managed in a project. In this context, the adaptive reuse project

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Adaptive reuse of old industrial facilities in the inner-city areas has attracted rising interest from multiple actors in real estate development by providing anew avenue for higher economic returns. However

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the NSMH, Nevzat Sayın, and Dr. M. Cem Altun.

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