It doesn’t happen often, but when old and new architecture are joined in a thoughtful manner, the results can be dazzling
Historic and modern architecture don’t come together too often. Even though they’re seen as vastly different, but still equally important, our built environment is often defined by distinctly separate old and new buildings. Historic architecture has its own charm and beauty—think about lasting palaces like Versailles or ancient temples across the world—and it’s no secret that, at its best, modern architecture inspires: Many buildings designed by figures such as Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Santiago Calatrava, and Frank Gehry, among others are some examples.
Older structures can inform us about the culture, history, and values of the past; new ones, much like a force of nature, have the ability to transform a neighborhood (almost always for the better). Many refer to this as the Bilbao effect, a term coined after a Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim museum helped turn around the Spanish city’s economy.
Economic boost aside, what happens when these modern marvels are built on or within the existing buildings themselves? Although it’s not the norm, there are times when architects decide (mainly due to preservation) that instead of building around or in place of historic structures, it’s better to build in or atop the original foundation. When these two worlds of old and new come together, the result can be awe-inspiring. From Zaha Hadid’s extension to the Port House in Belgium, which looks as if a spaceship were attached to a 19th-century building, to Daniel Libeskind’s beautiful clash of new and old in Canada’s Royal Ontario Museum, AD lists the 19 best examples of when historic and modern architecture come together to produce something better than the sum of their parts.