Talk about a miraculous adaptive reuse! The Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore is housed in a thirteenth-century Gothic monastery in Maastricht, The Netherlands. Construction began on the complex in 1267 and was completed in 1294. Following the French Revolution, Maastricht was annexed by the French, and the monastery was used for other purposes (including stabling horses) but was never again used as a church. In the last two hundred years, the structure has been reused multiple times, most recently by the Dutch bookstore chain Selexyz beginning in 2006 (see this article in Crossroads magazine: http://crossroadsmag.eu/2008/03/between-two-selexyz-dominicanen-as-church-and-bookstore/).

At a time when “green” building is in, adaptive reuse is seen by many as the greenest way to go. Existing buildings have embodied value in their materials and the energy, both physical and human, that was used to construct them. They also have historical and cultural value to the communities in which they stand.

From an environmentally conscious point of view, finding new purposes for buildings that are already here instead of tearing them down, bulldozing everything into a landfill, and building an (often) inferior structure on the site, adaptive reuse makes good sense.

From a cultural point of view, reusing existing buildings brings a number of issues to the fore. What about buildings that are markers of hegemonic power in communities? What about reuses that may seem distasteful to some, like a nightclub in a deconsecrated church, complete with dancing on the former altar? I recently read about controversy over the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, being reused as a museum. Some feel that the site should be reused in other ways. These are important considerations that are part of any decision to adapt buildings and ones that communities must face.

In many cases, adaptive reuse is a great thing to do. So, bibliophiles rejoice! The Selexyz Dominicanen promises to be an uplifting book buying experience.

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