Industrial conversions, Futur-e best practice for sustainability

Published on Monday, 30 January 2017

Futur-e: a project that is guiding Italy into the future, according to Huffington Post Italy, the publication led by Lucia Annunziata, editor-in-chief. In a special segment entitled “Electrify the World”, Enel’s Futur-e project is highlighted among recent projects involving the conversion of power stations, projects that feature “a much greater sensitivity towards environmental and social sustainability than the past ones”. The article then explains that Futur-e seeks to transform 23 obsolete power plants in Italy into eco-sustainable sites dedicated to science, art, culture or tourism based on the principles of the circular economy.

Circular economy as the next evolution of sustainability is also at the heart of the project featuring Italian architect Renzo Piano, aimed at converting the early twentieth-century GES-2 power station on the banks of the Moskva River in Moscow, just behind the Kremlin, into a contemporary art gallery. The former power plant, occupying roughly two hectares in the Red October district, is to become the largest exhibit space for the V-A-C Foundation, an organization for the promotion of art - owned by the Russian hydrocarbon magnate Leonid Mikhelson - that will preserve the building’s industrial heritage with the gallery spaces being enclosed within a metal framework.

Renzo Piano, who claims to have started his successful career by building a museum—the Centre George Pompidou in Paris—“as if it were a factory”, now finds himself building an actual museum from an abandoned factory, a symbol of urban and social decay, in order to transform it into a vibrant hub of social and cultural energy. The goal is to give the Russian capital a space in which to produce contemporary culture, not just a museum, an auditorium or a movie theater, but a sort of laboratory in which art can come to life and whose result is made, produced, and sent out into the world. The new structure will be opening in 2019 and will convert the building’s chimney into a source of natural ventilation. The building will not only comprise solar panels and a geothermal system, but will also be surrounded by an urban forest of birch trees. It is just one of many new conversion projects to focus on social and environmental sustainability—power stations being given back to the community as spaces of creativity and social activity, with particular emphasis on respect for the environment.

Once a symbol of the Soviet superpower, the GES-2 is now a dark, lifeless place. “I will bring light to this place,” Renzo Piano said to the mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin. “Light was once produced here, and I’ll make sure it will again. It will be like a magic lamp in the heart of Moscow.”