Lessons in Up-Cycling

Vladimir Ossipoff’s existing buildings adapted and reused.

It is all too often in practice I hear of another modern glass office building put up for demolition. Many are concrete structures that were meant to last much larger than their demolition date. With this current epidemic lot can be learned about the adaptive reuse of the office building typology in the case of the IBM building by Vladimir Ossipoff.

IBM Building by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1962. Photo: Chelsea Anderson

I had the opportunity to be shown around by the current occupants, Ward Village a development company that is a division of Howard Hughes. The development company houses its headquarters in the building as well as multiple showrooms for the buildings they have under construction. This was made possible by open interiors that can be easily gutted and converted to any floor plan, as well as 10-foot-tall ceilings that match the height of most of the developments.

IBM Building by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1962. Photo: Chelsea Anderson

The brie soleil provides a shade in a hot, humid climate as well as classic aesthetic, originally derived from the idea of circuitry for IBM. This extra layer is what is missing from many of the office buildings described earlier that end up demolished. Most are a standard curtain wall design, with an aesthetic which has gone out of favor and construction technology. This can be a lesson for a way to adapt the not-so-old glass buildings of any kind. With the addition of another façade, heat gain can be greatly reduced, and the aesthetics revamped.

IBM Building by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1962. Photo: Chelsea Anderson

The idea of a double layered façade, could help to save many of the office buildings up for demolition. Although this is if the floor plan is open and flexible and the ceiling heights are adequate.

IBM Building by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1962. Drawing from University of Hawaii Archives.


Diamond Head Apartments

Diamond Head apartments by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1958. Photo: Chelsea Anderson

The Diamond Head Apartments are another example of a building still being adapted today. The apartment building designed by Ossipoff in 1958 was the first all pre-stressed steel reinforced concrete building taller than six stories in the United States. The advanced structure allowed for open interiors, which gives owners great opportunity for customization. This makes this building highly sought after.

Another feature that makes this building highly sought after are of course its spectacular views. Ossipoff said in his design of this building that the worst thing an architect can do in designing an oceanfront building is face it directly at the water. What one should seek to do is give a much more interesting angle that includes land and water in the views. He accomplishes this in the Diamond Head apartments with a ‘Y’ shaped floor plan. The ‘V’ portion gives ocean and land views toward Waikiki and Diamondhead where the back faces Diamondhead and the Honolulu skyline. There is no unit with a poor view.

Diamond Head apartments by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1958. Photo: Chelsea Anderson

Hawaii Medical Library, Queens Medical Center by Vladimir Ossipoff, 1961. Photo: Chelsea Anderson

With an impromptu visit to Queens Medical Library with Don Hibbard, we quickly realized it was no longer being used as a library, but were pleased to see it was repurposed as an office building. Years earlier it was questioned for demolition, but with an exterior in great shape with an open, flexible interior layout it was able to easily be converted to offices at minimal cost.

AuthorChelsea Anderson

Award-winning architect Chelsea Anderson is the founder and lead architect of Habitable Form and lecturer for the Clemson University Graduate School of Architecture at the Clemson Design Center Charleston.

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