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Whether just a restoration, or a complete makeover, the buildings in this article showcase architectural facelifts and building conversions from around the world.

I thought I’d start with the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, as I’ve actually seen this historic conversion in real life. The ROM is Canada’s largest museum, with 40 galleries, more than six million items in its collection, and it attracts over one million visitors each year. The museum originally opened in 1912, but in 2002, underwent extensive renovations that left it with an impressive glass triangle — the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal — extending from its side, which was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind.

“The Deconstructivist crystalline-form is clad in 25 percent glass and 75 percent aluminium sitting on top of a steel frame,” Wikipedia explains. “The Crystal’s canted walls do not touch the sides of the existing heritage buildings, used to close the envelope between the new form and existing walls. These walls act as a pathway for pedestrians to safely travel across ‘The Crystal’.”

The ROM Opening
Image via

A similar structure — although not quite as bold — is the National Architects Union Headquarters (Uniunea arhitectilor din Romania) in Bucharest, Romania.

“The old building was called ‘Paucescu House’ (built in the second half of the nineteenth century) and in 1914, with the last arrangements at the Royal Foundation (1914), part of Paucescu house was demolished,” explains. “Thereby, the building area was reduced considerably, but even in the new form, it remained a remarkable one.

“During the communist regime, the Paucescu house sheltered the Directorate of State Security. After 2000, the Union of Architects came into possession of the building. Everyone expected the palace Paucescu to regain its brilliance by restoring original style. What happened then is a different story.”

What stands today looks like the top of a modern skyscraper — with floor to ceiling windows on each floor — stacked on top of an old European heritage building.

Bucharest Architecture
Image via Tumblr


Next up we have a historic renovation that you can actually spend the night in. The Kruisherenhotel Maastricht in the Netherlands offers highly modern amenities and was designed by Henk Vos inside a 15th century monastery.

“Many innovative solutions for structural challenges (e.g. a glass elevator connecting the church to the monastery area) only confirm the notion that the sobriety of modern style forms a perfect match for a late-medieval architectural expression of religious virtue,” Design Hotels explains.

“The 60-room Kruisherenhotel-Maastricht complex consists of the original monastery as well as a Gothic church, which now houses the reception area and several hotel facilities, including conference rooms, a library, a boutique, and a coffee bar.”

Kruisheren Hotel

The Kruisherenhotel via
Kruisheren Hotel
Kruisheren Hotel via

Another modern church conversion was done to the Sant Francesc church in Catalan, Spain by David Closes.

“Closes wanted to preserve the historical legacy of the building – which was built between 1721 and 1729 by Franciscan priests – in his impressive reinterpretation of religious space. In 2000 the convent was partly demolished by the state due to its ruinous appearance and fell into disuse,” explains World Architecture News. “Closes completed the project in 2011 and he has left the rough, damaged facade of the building intact, preserving in its modernisation.”

Today the juxtaposed architectural gem is open to the public and used as a cultural space.

Catalan Church
Image via World Architecture News

Have you come across any unique buildings that combine history with modern design?