Reuse in a Big Way

by Handsome Matt

I belong to the art and design blog For me, it’s a way to exercise my fantasies of being a world class designer/artist/architecture. Reality however is that I am much more appreciative of art, design, and architecture then I am artistically inclined.

I read the blog for inspiration. To see what individuals are doing across the world tends to push me to go further and further.

Today there was a post up about a building in France called the Bottier Chenaie designed by BLOCK architects. Specifically, it’s located in a city called Nantes, whose government has chosen to reinvigorate certain areas of town, and provide affordable housing while doing it.


This is reusing on a large scale. Too often, the tendency is to leave an area after its value has dropped below a certain dollar amount. One needs only to drive through the old industrial areas of any major city too see this. Or the tracts of low-income housing that all cities have.

And what subsequently happens, is that these buildings lay derelict, unkempt, and abandoned. This in turn increases crime levels and deflates property values even more. Gary, Indiana and Detroit, Michigan highlight this trend.

In some instances, the buildings need to be demolished and returned to green space. But in many, these buildings can be remodeled, added to, and redesigned.

BLOCK did this with an area in Nantes. And the result is brilliant.

Color! How often are poorer areas completely devoid of meaningful uses of color? Yet we know that color affects mood, and mood affects actions. To put it plainly: drab, depressing colors create drab, depressed people.

A green roof. Most industrial buildings have flat roofs, why not use that space in an energy efficient, environmentally manner. Other uses could include rainwater collection (to offset water requirements for things like landscaping, toilets, etc) or even solar panels.

Mixed use space. Businesses and housing are combined with interior and exterior spaces. Our mindset currently, is to delineate strongly between housing and work, whereas that might not be the best idea. For example, if I need to run to the grocers for an item, it is a twenty minute trip. Within the building designed by BLOCK, it might be five minutes.


This is still a fairly new building. But the concept I feel is an excellent one. By combining mixed usage into one building, we can save on transportation costs and subsequently reduce pollution. While it might create headaches for zoning commissions, I’m not that concerned with offending bureaucrats.

Furthermore, with smart building decisions; these would help to reduce CO2 emissions in large ways. If they’re built and situated to passively heat and cool, money would be saved year round.

Ultimately, this is a smart idea. We should also be looking at how we zone land in general. Could we start to allow certain businesses (banks, restaurants, markets, etc) to be situated closer to homes? We aren’t right now, and there seems to be no great reason why that is, apart from “we’ve always done it that way.”

Conservance’ Stance

The idea of using architecture and design to better lives, is nothing new. In fact it’s as old as humanity itself. And as we combine environmentally sustainable and clean technologies and ideas that work, with how we build we can make a large dent in our ecologic footprint.

Furthermore, the idea of integrating space, of using and rebuilding already used areas helps us to reduce our building footprint. Instead of bulldozing farmland, wild lands, or similar natural areas; we can use areas that have already been developed.

Lastly: The idea of raising property values and building with an eye on affordability is vitally essential to the environmental movement. If the average citizen can’t afford to reduce their environmental impact, then this is just an exercise in thought.

Check it Yourself

BLOCK – website for the architectural firm, BLOCK

Abduzeedo – article highlighting Bottier Chenaie on