Old Guinness Brewery to follow the trend of adaptive reuse of Industrial heritage in Europe

Adaptive reuse of Industrial architecture is becoming a popular strategy to preserve and rejuvenate industrial heritage sites. These heritage sites find new and extended uses through innovative renovations and transformations. Adaptive reuse strategies help in increasing and enhancing the social, economical, and cultural significance of old industrial heritage sites.

Latest industrial heritage complex to join this trend is St James Gate Guinness Brewery in Dublin. Ballymore, an urban regeneration and adaptive re-use company submitted its proposal to rejuvenate and transform the old brewery site into a new Guinness Quarter. The design proposal for the urban quarter divides the old site into tourist space, residential space and social housing.

Adaptive reuse of Industrial heritage

Adaptive reuse is a process wherein, the developers of the sites restore and preserve old, existing building with completely new and different functions. The practice is environmentally friendly as it encourages use of existing structures, rather rebuilding of entire complexes. This practice also helps in preserving various temporal layers of built heritage in cities.

The Ruhr area in Germany is an example of converting a large industrial region with over 5 million habitants into a polycentric urban cultural landscape. The region was known for its coal and steel industry, founded in the 20th century. The region today houses 5 universities, 3,500 industrial monuments, 200 museums, 120 theatres, 100 cultural centres, 100 concert halls and 2 famous musical theatres.

Essen – Zeche Zollverein coal mine. Photo – Rugter va der Maar (CC BY 2.0)

Another example is Cukrana in Ljubljana, Slovenia. In 1828, Cukrarna was founded as a sugar factory. It was the largest sugar refinery in the Austro-Hungarian empire, in the 19th century. However, in 1858, a disastrous fire broke out in Ljubljana, causing the factory to burn down. In 2021, the defuncted sugary refinery was restored and renovated into a vibrant cultural hub. The old building is preserved and converted into a museum and art gallery.

The Bow Street Jameson Distillery is located across the river from the Guinness brewery in Dublin. The distillery was one of the largest manufacturing plants in Ireland, in the 19th century. During the 20th century, however, the renounced whiskey brand fell on dark times. This was due to prohibition in the USA and the trade wars between Great Britain and Ireland after the declaration of Irish independence. This caused the company to shut down its plant in Dublin in 1966. In 1997, a part of the old distillery site was opened as the Jameson museum. The rest of the previously industrial neighbourhood was remodelled around the existing industrial buildings, transforming it into Dublin’s most attractive urban area.

St James Gate Guinness Brewery

The St James Gate Guinness Brewery is located in the heart of a working-class neighbourhood called the Liberties. The neighbourhood is known for its thriving local culture and character. The redevelopment of St James Gate brewery was heavily influenced by the successful rejuvenation of Bow Street Jameson Distillery. In their statement, Ballymore developers stated, that it is important for the planners need to respect this, otherwise, the whole project could turn into another gentrification scheme.

The Group Chief Executive of Ballymore, Seán Mulryan, explained that the design needed to be modern, sensitive and highly sustainable. He believes the company is a ‘sort of custodian’ of the site and the site is a very important part of Dublin’s heritage site.

The plan emphasises the preservation of the historic buildings on the site while redesigning the industrial complex with a series of indoor and outdoor public spaces. The developers further stated that, apart from the heritage benefits, the site will be the first of its kind as an operational zero-carbon district in Dublin. The proposed plan includes 366 homes. There will be available for buying, renting and social housing. The plan also includes hotels that will cater to business and leisure proposes.

Future of Industrial heritage?

Adaptive use of industrial heritage could be a new chance for locals to interact with their heritage and create new cultural values. However, many experts and locals have started looking at adaptive reuse as a go-to solution for the preservation of industrial heritage. Should this become a standard long-term solution for a neglected complexes like the Guinness brewery? Or should the collective identities and memories of the working class be brought to the foreground when it comes to working with industrial heritage more often?

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