An illustred history of the warehouse typology
During the industrial revolution, warehouses dominated the the urban landscape. They progressively changed, they almost disappeared, hidden behind new materials and new technologies… But thanks to its adaptabily and versatility, the warehouse typology is still able to offer several opportunities to contemporary architecture and it’s making its way back into our built environment.
The warehouse is a commercial building for storage of goods. Its image is mostly related with the Industrial Revolution, when warehouses dominated the urban landscape. In that period they were usually rectangular, built in red bricks and with a double pitched roof. The interior was an unique room and wide windows were necessary to light the vast space inside. All these features arose for functional reasons. Infact, the warehouses were often located near railways or rivers, to receive the goods.
As time went by and innovation came along, construction materials and technologies changed both in residential and industrial buildings. But the structure of the warehouse held up in its core aspects.
So, even if the image has changed, the warehouse archetype is still recognizable: the structural pattern is the same, and so are the rectangular plan and the double pitched roof.
Some of the old ones abandoned their industrial function. In the last years many renovation interventions have turned old warehouses into apartments, restaurants and shops. The absence of internal walls and the big heights allow an adaptable redesign of the space.
The newest warehouses almost abandoned the typical features and the typology is recognizable only in a few aspects. The easiest to indentify are the wide interiors, the large windows and the free design of ground plan.
Nowadays some new constructions are built up warehouse-like, even if they do not have a storage function. Some aspects like the free design of ground plan, the wide interiors and the large windows are appreciable over and above they functional reasons.
The warehouse typology is not dead. For contemporary industrial it lost some features but it still work in line with its principles, such as the good organization in pallets and the use of loading docks. In non industrial buildings some of its feature that optimized work and storage are now reinterpreted and readapted for home life and free time.
The warehouse typology offers several opportunities to modern architecture, both in renovation interventions and new projects, for its adaptabily and versatility.