I think adaptive reuse is one of the most exciting aspects of preservation: the challenge of making something very old relevant to current needs, and doing that with grace and perhaps even a quiet panache. It’s working creatively within a literal box and respecting a long past – or cheekily nodding to it, then moving on.

Historian Patricia Waddy gives a more poetic take:

Buildings have lives in time, and those lives are intimately connected with the lives of the people who use them. Buildings come into being at particular moments and in particular circumstances. They change and perhaps grow as the lives of their users change. Eventually–when, for whatever reason, people no longer find them useful–they die. The artistry of the designers of buildings is exercised in the context of that life, as well as the context of a life that art itself may have. [in Seventeenth Century Roman Palaces]

For your viewing pleasure, here are some adaptively reused buildings in Philadelphia and farther afield, in Scotland.

[Firehouse on Baltimore Avenue, now a restaurant, coffeeshop, bike cooperative, and community acupuncture center]

[Manufacture & Bankers Club on Broad Street, now an upscale hotel]

[Jacob Reed’s Sons clothing store on Chestnut Street, now a CVS drugstore. Exterior view here]

[Church in Oban (Scotland) now a visitors’ centre. A pretty graceful adaptive reuse of the space…]

[…Though this convenience store in Tobermory (Scotland) is my favorite example. It may not be the epitome of churchly adaptive reuse, but it’s not embarrassed. That counts for a lot in my book.]