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BOOK

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REVIEW

Conversions By Emma O'Kelly and Corinna Dean Laurence King, 2007.208pp. £25

'Conversions' here means adapting non-residential buildings to residential use.

The introduction is a travelogue, noting whether such conversions of lofts, churches, '60s offices, etc, are variously 'in' or 'out' around the world, mainly in large cities. In passing it notes that issues are raised by larger-scale reuse (regeneration and gentrification), though doesn't explore them.

After this globetrotting, the book abruptly changes subject.

With a couple of exceptions, it presents 36 case studies of upmarket single-dwelling conversions, focused on the interiors. Not only are issues like urban mixed use and tenure, or the effects of such conversions on the affordability of rural housing, now ignored - so too are key aspects of conversion.

In many of the projects glossed in the introduction, like those of Urban Splash, the hard jobs often include relating the building to its immediate surroundings, respecting existing fabric, creating an entrance and circulation that feel like home, or bringing light into deep plans. Fit-out of individual apartments and dwellings, the focus of the book's case studies, is often less taxing, if more architectural fun.

The level of 'criticism', such as 'to give the extension a contemporary look the architects chose not to paint the (timber) cladding', suggests a wide target audience. But if you are doing this sort of interior work, the images and drawings of these varied projects do provide an interesting range, more Scarpa than SPAB, more Alsop than Pawson.

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