Restoration & Adaptive Reuse

Conservation (preservation), restoration, and adaptive reuse involve the physical repairs of existing buildings to ensure their stabilization, longevity, and their return to functionality. KCA is adept at the design and construction oversight of these projects. Existing buildings and archaic building materials require special knowledge. Giving older buildings with the same treatments as new, can cause irreversible damage.

Kate Cowing has been working with existing buildings for over a quarter of a century and has designed these repairs for hundreds of buildings. Kate opened a firm focusing on existing buildings because this is her passion. Although always knowing she would eventually become an architect, she chose to receive her training as a conservator prior to entering architecture school. This passion stems from three primary elements: sustainability, community, and creativity.

The Please Touch Museum South Foyer. Courtesy of the Please Touch Museum
The Please Touch Museum South Foyer. Courtesy of the Please Touch Museum


Kate believes strongly in the often-repeated quote by Carl Elefante “The greenest building is one that is already built.” The daughter of early environmentalists, even as a child Kate recognized that reusing a building is a form of recycling. The current trend of tearing down the existing to build new is simply unsustainable. Research shows that building construction produces 13% of the entire world’s carbon emissions. Even the greenest newly constructed building can take as much as 80 years to overcome the impact of its construction. Existing buildings have already used the resources required to construct them and often the existing building materials are stronger and more resilient than those used today. Updating an existing building is the most sustainable design.


Having lived in places where both entire farms and entire city blocks have been demolished for new housing, Kate Cowing recognizes the disorientation and negativity created by suddenly having one’s surroundings changed. For KCA, reusing existing buildings isn’t just about saving historic artifacts, but retaining a sense of community and a sense of place.


Kate Cowing realized early on that her creative talents are not like most architects. It is the challenge of working within the constraints of an existing environment that inspires Kate. Working with existing buildings is very different than designing new. The architect must listen to the building and draw out the best and discard the worst. Good design for an existing building comes from a delicate balance of new and old. This is where Kate's creativity shines.

Featured Projects

Byberry Friends’ Meeting House Addition

Founded in 1683, the Byberry Friends’ Monthly Meeting (Quakers) have been worshipping at their current site since 1694. The current meeting house, constructed in 1808,…

Wissahickon Trails Headquarters

As part of a collaboration between Daedalus Design Build and Kate Cowing Architect, LLC, Kate was the lead designer for the adaptive reuse of this…

The pegasi on opening day of the 1876 Centennial World’s Fair.

Pegasus at Memorial Hall

While with Materials Conservation Co., Kate Cowing was the project manager for the conservation of the Pegasus Sculptures at Memorial Hall. The two colossal bronze…

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