Transforming an old Coke factory into a vibrant municipal center

Summary:What's an energy-efficient way to save an old Coke bottling plant? Leave it there and turn it into City Hall.

Repurposing an old building isn't a new concept, as warehouses turn into lofts and shops in urban areas worldwide-- reuse is one of the basinal principles of sustainability, after all. A really great example of refurbishment of the industrial into the modern is the OostCampus led by Madrid firm Carlos Arroyo Architects.

The firm took an old Coca-Cola bottling plant and transformed the space into a city hall and municipal services center that unifies the civil services buildings in the areas around Oostkamp, Belgium and the surrounding countryside that borders Bruges.

When the municipalities of these areas were combined, the city acquired the plot of land with the defunct Coke plant, a building in a perfect location to be convenient for all of the surrounding areas. Arroyo won a competition four years ago to project a different use for the site.

His plan kept the original building intact, including the foundation, but changed the giant hall substantially by filling the inside with fiber and gypsum bubble-like shells that make the interior look as far from industrial as possible.

Although the new design is compelling in itself, I am more taken with what remained from the original structure: floors, supporting structures, outer skin, insulation, waterproofing, and all recoverable services and equipment, like the power station, heating plant, water pipes, fire hoses, sewerage, and even parking area, fencing and access.

Arroyo didn't gut the thing, he used what he had (in a very cool way), and saved energy. No matter the LEED rating on a building, the energy of production is something we often forget about that's all too important to remember. And now, a forgotten plant has a vibrant second life.

For a video from the architects, click here.

Images: Carlos Arroyo Architects

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter.

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