Reincarnation of a Building

Designing with the Limitations and Possibilities of Salvaged Material

Master Thesis in Architecture 2016

Examiner: Morten Lund
Supervisor: Jonas Carlson

An old boatyard building in Arkösund is being demolished. It’s also the end of a family company that has been working there for many generations. The thesis is an investigation in ways to take care of the material from this building -to reincarnate it. By doing this a piece of history can be kept for future generations.
     The outcome is a design proposal for a wood workshop and boat storage space built only out of the salvaged material. Useful parts has been identified through inspection and measuring of the old building, to establish a material library which can be used when designing. In this case windows, corrugated metal roof pannels, wood from the framework and parts of the floor of the old shipyard was used.
     The aim is to inspire others to reuse in a smart way aswell as appretiate qualities in the worn and weathered material.This design is adaptable to fit other buildings and dimensions of different building parts. The cutting process has been optimised in this case to reduse the amount of waste.
     The preconditions of having a limited supply of parts has become a trigger for innovation during the design process. Geometry and details give new life to the material -a legacy that would otherwise be lost.


There are many abandoned buildings around Sweden that go to ruin due to change in demands. This thesis project propose to find a new use for the old building material that would otherwise go to waste. Through this kind of reincarnation both local cultural heritage, personal memories and relics can pe preserved and further appriciated at the same time as the contemporary needs can be supplied. In this chase the main purpose of the building will in a way remain after the reincarnation (even if in a smaller scale), namely storage and workshop for wooden boats.

Qualities that can be found in this old material can be everything from aesthetics of weathered, worn surfaces, details of craftmanship, smells to structural properties of e.g. well preserved wood or metal.

The aim of the thesis has been to develop a customizable enough system to be able to adapt to different buildings, but the one building instantiated here has been an old shipyard in Arkösund, on the east coast of Sweden.


The development of the onshore village Arkösund hot up in the mid 1890s when a railway was built to supplement Norrköpings harbour. The purpose to make Arkösund a commercial harbour showed to be unrealistic when Norrköpings harbour could be kept open with the help of icebreakers. Arkösund is situated close to many fairways and has been a node for the fishing industry, bathing and sailing tourism aswell as exploitation for weekend cottages. There was a big market for shipyards, and Arkösunds båtvarv was one of three local actors.

Arkösunds båtvarv was constructed 1919-1920. The building has been looking more or less the same since, except a major expansion some time between 1920 and 1943. Additional major changes of the site is an extensive landfill around the building and construction of some complementary buildings, a crane and a slipway.

During the latest centuries, the wooden boat production has been ousted by other materials and the companys focus changed towards service and motors. The building is likely to be demolished during this year and replaced by a new, more modern one.

The boatyard

The old building have been carefully investigated and analyzed to create a library of useful parts with the dimensions and lengths. It is mainly constructed by wood. It contains a big hall, a storagehall for masts, tarps etc., a small heated office area with a kitchen and a restroom, a welding/metalworkshop, aswell as a second floor at a part of the building with storageareas for tools etc. The main hall was used to build wooden boats, with all the machinery in it, workbenches, woodstorage for the boatbuilding etc. and has double ceilingheight. In the main hall there are alot of big mullioned windows. The roof is corrugated iron.

exploded boatyard

Architectural objectives

The design objective was small wood workshop combined with a storage area for a small wooden boat to make a favorable space for restoration during the winter season. What a workshop needs, in my mind, is adequate daylighting, a calming view, enough space but not excessive distances to move. There was also an urge to create a separate department for recreation and communion.

Adaptable shape

Initial sketches made while trying to presume little about how architecture “should be”. The aim was to come up with an architectural system that was general enough (to use as much as possible of the salvaged material), while enabling geometrical freedom to adjust to program and aesthetics.

The surfaces can adopt any angle and acts as both walls and roofs. This new building elements will be referred to as plates. The facade material can be corrugated metal sheets or patched wooden panels and the geometry isn’t bound to how the surfaces are paneled.

Generating the shape

Initially physical models was used as a sketching method. An early thought about material usage through tessilation and an urge to achieve a unique geometric shape was driving. The amount of available material has been kept in mind all through the sketching phase. A number of simple sketch models were made, where liked spatial expressions were picked and developed. The program , areas and specific shape of the boat was another tool to determine the shape of the building.

The workshop part and the boat storage part make one volume each. The two floors also split the building where the bottom floor is for heavy duties, where the floor is kept untreated, while the top floor get a refined finish with planed floor planks. This is to emphasise the contrast of the preserved wood, which might not be visible hidden under layers of oil and paint stains of the rough surface.

Spatial investigations

The physical models were translated to / modelled in a digital environment to be able to easily measure areas and lengths of the geometries.

Some nice properties of the geometries was found, such as the directionality the surfaces were given when contoured. The lines help to differentiate the surfaces from each other and percieve the angles of them. This property will later be used and achieved in the final design by the direction of the metal sheets.

Another finding was that the length of secondary beams (75*200) available will probably not be enough to enclose the nessesary space, and therefore other dimensions will have to be part of the new design aswell.

Diagram showing the shape combined by three voronoi cells. Red points are centrepoints defining these cells along with the outer "controlpoints"(yellow, green and blue). Each surface is a mirror between that cells centrepoint and the corresponding controlpoint.

Diagram showing the shape combined by three voronoi cells. Red points are centrepoints defining these cells along with the outer "controlpoints"(yellow, green and blue). Each surface is a mirror between that cells centrepoint and the corresponding controlpoint.

Diagram showing the important directions of the building. Daylight, View and boat entrance. These directions are locked. An approximate size of the overall shape is also set as a boundary condition.

Diagram showing the important directions of the building. Daylight, View and boat entrance. These directions are locked. An approximate size of the overall shape is also set as a boundary condition.


In the process of minimising the waste and use as much as possible of the precious material, a cutting logic was generated and the geometry was modelled in a digital environment. The geometry have been parameterised using a combination of three voronoi cells. In this way the angle of each surface can be determined by the position of a point.

The red points in the diagram are the centerpoints of the voronoi cells. The green points control the green cell, the blue points control the blue cell and the yellow points control the yellow cell. Each surface of the cells are mirrors between the corresponding external point and internal (red) point.

Cutting logic & optimisation

By supplying a list of available material (length of parts), and another list of the parts that needs to be cut, the computer then calculates which part to cut first in order to waste as little as possible. The cutting logic was implemented in a script with the total amount of wasted material as output. This information was then used to “inform” the design by slightly changing the position of above mentioned points. An evolutionary solver was used to find an “optimal“ solution.

Surfaces that carries functions such as doors or windows can be locked to a certain angle to keep their functionality.

Structural challenge

The intended geometric shapes carries with them two major properties. First of all the opportunity to use the diaphragm action within the plates to stabilize the structure. The plates with angles between them will be both vertical and lateral support to each other. The other challenge is to solve the corners, which in many cases will get complicated with many edges connecting in different angles. The solution to this has to be general enough to be applicable in cases where the creases in a corner fold in two directions.

Prefabricated plates

To be able to use elements of different dimensions in the construction, a plate system was developed.

The system have one primary frame for each plate and connects the two plates in each edge using a kind of biscuit joint. The plates meet always in the closest edge between two plates and this edge can be either an interior or exterior edge depending on the crease. This allows the thickness of the different plates to vary individually, and adapt to the specific dimensions of the beams available.

The plate is gaining its internal stability and diaphragm strength in both the interior panel and the studs and sheets of the exterior.

This system has the advantage of being able to prefabricate the plates and in that way streamline the production.


The plate elements are joined together with a biscuit-joint system. The frames are prepared during the prefabrication process with matching sockets on both sides of the joint. When the plates are mounted, the biscuits are inserted which allows no translation along the edge, but some rotation around it if needed. The insulation is then put inside the frame and ilong the edges and covered with the studs. 

Untitled-1 copy
Canvas at 20;25;25
A few generations from the optimisation process
A few generations from the optimisation process

Final design proposal

exterior perspective
exploded view 1-100
West facade
West facade
South facade
South facade
North facade
North facade
East facade
East facade
Plan top floor
Plan top floor
Plan bot floor
Plan bot floor
b-b 1-20 jointz
a-a 1-20
adminReincarnation of a Building