April 25, 2024

Buildings that were once palaces, monasteries and jails are finding new life in the modern world. Today, their traditional purpose has been shelved in favor of museums, libraries, cafes and even a grocery store. Rather than tear down and build anew, architects are repurposing older structures. They have retained many of the features of these great buildings as they created their new design, leading to stunning beauty in surprising places.

Matt Gush/Getty
Matt Gush/Getty

Say Olé!

Quinta Real Zacatecas

Zacatecas, Mexico

This luxury hotel faces an ancient aqueduct and surrounds a 17th-century bullfighting ring, all set against the cliffside of historic Cerro de la Bufa. In addition to standout rooms, the hotel’s restaurants take advantage of the vintage architecture: La Plaza serves up cuisine while guests overlook Old San Pedro Bullfight Arena and Bar Botarel is located where the bullpens used to be.

Phil Armstrong
Phil Armstrong

Exhibit Junction

Cincinnati Museum Center


Built in 1933, this art deco Union Terminal train station boasts the largest half-dome in the western hemisphere at 180 feet across and intricate mosaics depicting 15 different vibrant industries in the Queen City. In modern days, the complex was converted to house many of the city’s museums, including its history, natural history, children’s and Holocaust museums, plus an Omnimax theater. Fittingly, an extensive annual holiday train show exhibit chugs along there as well.

Courtesy of Liberty Hotel
Courtesy of Liberty Hotel

Willful Incarceration

Liberty Hotel


Located just steps from the Boston Common at the foot of Beacon Hill, the Liberty Hotel now resides at the former Charles Street Jail. Its 298 rooms and suites were inspired by the location, which last housed prisoners in 1990. The building’s fresh purpose was designed in concert with teams of preservationists and historians to ensure that its past life was never forgotten. Dine amidst the original brick walls and jail cell façades in CLINK. restaurant. Famous former residents include Malcolm X and anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti.

Courtesy of El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Courtesy of El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Centenary of Stories

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Buenos Aires, Argentina

This beautiful bookshop has the distinction of starting its life as a theater. Teatro Gran Splendid opened its doors in May 1919 and hosted a long list of performers before being turned into a cinema when movies became en vogue. The location was purchased and renovated as a bookstore in the early 2000s. Today, customers can sit in the original theater boxes, dine at the backstage café and gaze at the ornately carved, historic ceiling.

Alwyn Ladell on Flickr
Alwyn Ladell on Flickr

God to Grocery

Tesco Express

Bournemouth, England

Located just down from the Westbourne Arcade is a grocery store housed within the former Westbourne (Wesleyan) Methodist Church. Large arched windows and stained glass have welcomed shoppers for meal deals since the early 2010s. Much of the original church finery like pillars and stonework remain, while some of the more precious bits have protective coverings.

Etienne C.L. van Sloun
Etienne C.L. van Sloun

Catholic Chapters


Maastricht, Netherlands

Housed within a church that dates back to 1294, the former Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen has a storied history. It served as a Catholic church for hundreds of years before being converted to a storage space for Napoleon Bonaparte’s army during the French invasion in 1794. Once the military left, it became archival space as well as a bicycle storage area. In 2006 it was converted into a bookstore, retaining much of its traditional artwork and architecture.

Mark Williams Photography
Mark Williams Photography

Stunning Silos

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art

Cape Town, South Africa

A grain silo complex stood as a Cape Town skyline landmark for years. When the Zeitz MOCAA asked Heatherwick Studio to reuse and incorporate the silos into the new home of contemporary art, the architecture firm took on the challenge. Today, 42 100-foot concrete tubes have been repurposed to showcase the history of Cape Town and the massive, modern surrounds of the museum. It has 100 galleries and a high atrium that house rotating, temporary exhibits as well as a permanent collection.

Paulius Peleckis/Getty
Paulius Peleckis/Getty

Airships to Heirloom

Riga Central Market

Riga, Latvia

Tucked in the heart of Latvia’s capital city, between the historic downtown, Daugava River and the international railway and bus stations, the Central Market is a destination for culinary adventure. The 1920s-era pavilions were originally military airship hangars and sit beside historic warehouses that host concerts and other entertainment. In 1998, the market was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The Kovalam Palace
The Kovalam Palace

Royal Slumber

Kovalam Palace

Kovalam, India

The Leela Kovalam, a new, 67-acre clifftop beach resort, is home to panoramic views of the Kovalam coastline as well as a fairytale castle. Kovalam Palace, also known as Halcyon Castle, once served as the summer residence of the royal family of Travancore, which gave up its ruling rights when India merged with Travancore in 1949. Today, guests can stay in one of the four suites inside the palace, each named after a royal princess from the Travancore kingdom.

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This story was originally published December 13, 2023, 5:00 AM.

source: star-telegram

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