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Rehabilitation versus Restoration – what’s the difference?

If there are two words associated with architecture which are used incorrectly, they are Rehabilitation and Restoration.   Although the public use them interchangeably, each one refers to a distinct type of project.   It is necessary to differentiate between them, because each classification has administrative implications, such as when applying for municipal licenses, including subventions (if relevant), so you must take into account whether you are dealing with a rehabilitation or a restoration.

We could start explaining the distinction between the two by firstly describing what rehabilitation is.  The objective of rehabilitation and refurbishment is to improve the liveability of a property, or at least part of it.  Here for example we could include new installations or the modernisation of those which already exist, redistribution of space – either by increasing or reducing it as the client wishes; or in the number of rooms and public spaces in the case of hotels.    It is also possible to refurbish exteriors, working on the walls and roofs of buildings.

Secondly, restoration is a very different type of project.  This type of restoration work is only carried out on listed buildings and monuments.   Here we are talking about restoring them to their original condition and adapting them to uses which were out-with the original purpose of the building; we can repair architectural elements, including substituting them where necessary to ensure the stability of the building.   The limitation is that these works cannot alter the original architecture.


Two examples

To see the tangible differences between these two types of projects, let’s look at actual projects.

On the island of Mallorca, an excellent example of restoration is Can Prunera, a modernist family house in Soller, which after the restoration of its decorative elements, furniture and facade, opened as a museum of Plastic Art in 2009.  The soul of this house shines through the loving restoration of its original details, and the change of use has not altered the ambiance of the original spaces, thus old and new harmonizing perfectly.

As for rehabilitation, architects need to understand the peculiarities of each of the buildings they are going to work on, whether they are homes, hotels or administrative buildings.  This way, they can guide the projects to achieve maximum satisfaction for users, guests or workers, since each building has its own spatial and structural qualities and rehabilitation improves living conditions and in the case of hotels or administrative buildings, improves working conditions.

Among these rehabilitation projects, also on Mallorca, is that of the Pure Salt Port Adriano hotel, accomplished by our studio, Zanobia.  There we carried out structural reforms on some of the rooms so that they had direct access to the hotel pool and restaurant areas, together with an interior design project that revolved around the world of art.   Another example is the hotel Pure Salt Garonda, where our studio undertook a project to take advantage of the original structures, highlighting the natural elements of the island, such as the sea and the light.

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