The best use for a large grain elevator is - of course - to store grain, but as commercial interests shift over time, many cities around the world are left with big, hulking structures and nothing to store in them. One good option is adaptive reuse. In Oslo, HRTB Arkitekter AS transformed an old grain elevator located along the Akerselva River into a 19-story student housing complex known as Grünerløkka Studenthus. Using bright panels of colored glass, the architects managed to add a bit of whimsy to the concrete, battleship gray exterior, while leaving most of the original structure intact.
Originally built in 1953, the grain elevator was used to store corn from Oslo’s Nedrefoss Mill, and it was in operation from the 1950s to the 1990s. The structure consists of three rows of seven grain silos — 21 in all. In 1993, the local government in the Norwegian capital approved the adaptive reuse project; work started on the conversion in 1999, and in 2001 the building reopened as a student housing complex. HRTB Arkitekter was aided by Lykke Frydenlund and Ingrid Løvstad, who provided artistic and interior design expertise.
Residents of Grünerløkka Studenthus enjoy excellent views of Oslo, as the 174-foot structure towers over its surroundings. The building consists of mostly studios and one-bedroom apartments, and unsurprisingly, most of the rooms are round. The unique building has become an architectural icon, and it won the City of Oslo’s Architecture Prize in 2002.
The conversion, which cost just under $30 million, has had its share of problems though. In 2008, over 70 residents were evacuated from the building when it was discovered that leaking cisterns had caused widespread mold. The damage was estimated to cost $3 – $5 million.