Posts tagged with "Adaptive Reuse":

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The Architecture Center Houston reveals designs for its new home

The Architecture Center Houston will soon be opening its doors at a new location: The 1906 B.A. Riesner Building, located at 900 Commerce Street at the center of the city's original downtown area. Houston practice Murphy Mears Architects is leading the building's renovation. The current center can be found at 315 Capitol Street. 900 Commerce Street, according to Rusty Bienvenue, executive director at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Houston Chapter, is due to open in September or October. AIA Houston received 28 proposals in May 2016 for the design. An advisor to the awarding jury, Bienvenue told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that Murphy Mears "hit a sweet spot," submitting the "most workable floor plan" with lots of open space and staff programming condensed together. Rolling steel panels allow for various exhibition configurations while conference rooms can also double-up as a board room. One of the main issues to address, however, was the fact the building sits in a 100-year-old floodplain. Speaking to AN, Kyle Humphries, a partner at Murphy Mears, said it was a "matter of when, not if" Commerce Street would be under water. Imagining it as a "bath tub," the architects added a quarter-inch-thick aluminum plate around the interior perimeter on two sides. "Our storefront system that faces Commerce Street is sealed and uses structural steel panels up to 3.5 feet long all along that facade," described Humphries. Furthermore, custom fills and seals on the doors (the profiles of which were manufactured in Switzerland) were prescribed with a custom-designed drop-in flood panel that can be operated by one person standing outside. In addition to this work, the building's facade is also being brought back close to its original state. "We're not creating an exact replica of the old facade," stressed Humphries. "We are making it contemporary compatible." "They understood the place has windows on one side and they wanted to activate those windows," Bienvenue told AN. "This was great as we wanted to send a message to people on the street." Inside are two main spaces: a former boiler room that boasts an existing skylight and the main area that houses staff and looks onto Commerce Street. "We wanted to leave the boiler room as a large, open, [and] flexible space and use the character we were given," said Humphries. "We simply needed to figure out how to access it, with it being below ground." For that, Murphy Mears designed a ramp that spirals around the perimeter and then drops down into that space from the street level. "The design is really about that procession, circling around as it allows that space to host lectures, exhibits, and parties," added Humphries. Humphries went on to say that the team, having created this undulating floor, applied those same undulations to the ceiling. This move would create a unifying character for the entire project. Seen in the interior renderings, this perforated ceiling on the ground floor level also serves as an acoustical device. As for events and exhibits, Bienvenue said that the Center's programming wouldn't be changed straight away but would be "revamped" in a "couple of months, maybe early 2018."
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wHY subtly transforms historic Masonic Temple to house Marciano Art Foundation

Rather than donating artworks to large, existing institutions, it is becoming more and more common for wealthy art collectors to create their own museums for displaying their extensive collections.

In Los Angeles, we have the Getty Museum; the Broad Museum; the Hammer Museum; and the Norton Simon Museum, for example. This arrangement allows the collector to assure that the works he or she acquired will be displayed in a manner that they control and won’t get lost within a much larger institution.

In New York, Ronald S. Lauder opened the Neue Galerie, and of course, in 1959 further up Fifth Avenue, the Guggenheim family opened their museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Sometimes these museums are very successful and draw visitors for years after their initial opening.

Adding to the trend, the Maurice & Paul Marciano Art Foundation (MAF) recently opened in Los Angeles to display some of the 1,500 art objects that the brothers have collected. The Marciano brothers made their fortune by creating and marketing Guess Jeans. For the last seven years, they’ve been working closely with MAF Deputy Director Jamie G. Manné to acquire a very diverse and often innovative collection. It was always their intent to create their own museum and four years ago the artist Alex Israel noticed that the large Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard was for sale. He told his friend—Manné—who also thought it had great potential. Manné told Maurice and he decided to buy it for $8 million.

The Masonic Temple was designed by artist and architect Millard Sheets. It opened in 1961 to serve the growing population of the Masons of California, a fraternal order whose mission was to “foster personal growth and improve the lives of others.” The Masons had noble goals but maintained a very private organization, which is reflected in the Millard Sheets design. It is a large and imposing 110,000-square-foot travertine structure on Wilshire Boulevard with essentially no windows; in other words, a big white box.

Three years ago the Marciano’s retained architect Kulapat Yantrasast and his New York and Los Angeles–based firm wHY to convert this white elephant into a museum that would engage the community, welcome the public, and display a wide range of art objects in a variety of media. wHY was an informed choice—they have extensive experience designing museums both new and old, including the Grand Rapids Museum in Michigan; the Speed Museum in Louisville, Kentucky; the Pomona College Studio Art Hall in California; and the interiors for the Art Institute of Chicago and Harvard Art Museums.

The design approach within their practice is based on collaboration, both externally and internally. Externally they work with the owner and engage the community to develop their design approach. Internally they integrate the firm’s four studios, each of which is named for its focus: “buildings,” “objects,” “grounds,” and “ideas.” Yantrasast said, “We intentionally work together from the beginning; architects, landscape architects, planners, and interior designers. We create a group of thought leaders, with the ideas workshop as the glue.” Yantrasast sees himself as the conductor of a group of “the best musicians.”

With MAF the goal was to respect the architecture of Millard Sheets while transforming his very private, enclosed box into a welcoming and engaging environment to experience contemporary art within. For the most part, they have achieved their goals with a few shortcomings.

wHY created a sculpture garden courtyard to welcome visitors who may approach by car from the rear or as pedestrians. This works well. The entry foyer is flanked by a bookstore and lounge, leading to the lobby, where they have saved and restored two beautiful light fixtures and three elegant elevator cabs.

The galleries comprise essentially two levels and a mezzanine to display the very diverse Marciano art collection. On the ground floor wHY converted the former 2,000-seat auditorium into a spacious 13,600-square-foot exhibition hall, with all interior lighting; essentially a vast black box that includes 65 pieces by the L.A.-based artist Jim Shaw. The former stage has been transformed into a dramatic sunken sculpture court, with Adrian Villar Rojas's reinterpretation of Michelangelo’s David lying in repose.

While the mezzanine is also dark and filled with video art, the top floor holds the most dramatic spaces. Yantrasast removed the hung ceiling from this floor to reveal the bold structure that supports the roof, creating a large 12,000-square-foot gallery to display major pieces of the Marciano collection. By stripping away a portion of its rear travertine elevation and replacing it with glass, the gallery is filled with waves of natural north light. This move also offers a pleasant promenade overlooking the city and the famous Hollywood sign. One unfortunate detail is that a beautiful Millard Sheets mosaic mural has been preserved, but a full height wall has been erected only six feet in front of it, making it virtually impossible to truly appreciate Sheets’ artwork.

Yantrasast believes that architects who design art museums are a “matchmaker between the art and the people,” and that the building “must support the art,” he said. It’s a delicate balance creating inviting spaces to exhibit art and making buildings that enhance their environment. In essence, wHY’s architecture becomes a subtle, quiet partner and does not dominate the art. At the MAF, generally wHY has succeeded as a “matchmaker.” They have created flexible, spacious galleries to display the extensive and diverse art. The inaugural exhibition, labeled Unpacking: The Marciano Collection and curated by Philipp Kaiser, formerly with L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art, works well in the newly re-imagined building and includes the work of 44 artists. Maurice Marciano seemed quite pleased with the result. He said, “We’ve been really blessed to give back to the artists’ community, and to share our passion with everybody.” In an ironic turn of events, the MAF has given new life to the Masonic Temple and extended the Masons’ goal to “improve the life of others.”
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Wheeler Kearns brings sensitivity and light to one of Chicago’s largest and oldest food pantries

For 47 years, the Lakeview Pantry on Chicago’s North Side has provided for the poor and hungry. Through food distribution and self-help initiatives and programs, the pantry has become a staple of its immediate neighbors as well as the greater Chicago community. When it came to establishing its first permanent space, the much-lauded organization turned to local firm Wheeler Kearns.

Originally known as the People’s Pantry of Lakeview, the organization was spread out among a variety of buildings throughout the neighborhood, often with administrations and operations in separate spaces. An adaptive reuse project, the new Lakeview Pantry brings the entire operation under one roof a few blocks from Lake Michigan, nestled up against the overhead L tracks.

Wheeler Kearns’s design for the 7,500-square-foot two-story space brings together the Pantry’s food distribution and social services programs, as well as the administrative staff, with connected spaces and natural light. The lower level includes the waiting area with a distribution counter, walk-in freezer-cooler, dry storage, and sorting room. The goal of the public face of project was to match the Pantry’s own mission by providing a dignified space for those in need. The bright front space serves over 8,000 people a year, with over 800 tons of food distributed in the form of 14-day supplies, so the front of house sees a lot of traffic and a lot of food.

Bathed in sunlight, a wood staircase leads to the upper level. Efficiently laid out offices fill the majority of the upstairs. Much-needed private meeting spaces, a conference room, a shared lunchroom, and open staff office space are lit from above and from the two ends of the thin building.

While the project was only recently finished, it has already been recognized with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design, an annual award given to outstanding built community-design projects in Chicago.

“When you work with an organization whose mission is so powerful and important, and they approach that mission with such vigor and earnestness, it is pretty easy to get behind it,” said project architect Danny Wick when he received the Driehaus award at the end of February. “Asking for help can be a pretty undignified thing to have to do. To try and bring a dignified experience to that, and recognize that good design is not only reserved for the wealthy, but that everybody can gain from design, was always the goal.”

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New renderings released for wHY’s play-work hybrid in L.A.

Los Angeles– and New York City–based wHY has released a new batch of renderings for the firm’s ambitious 2nd & Vignes development in the Los Angeles Arts District. The new renderings come in advance of a Los Angeles City Planning Commission review meeting for the planned 190,165-square-foot mixed-use complex, which is seeking a General Plan Amendment, a Zone Change, a Height District Change, and Master Conditional Use approvals. The project aims to add a private membership club, ground floor retail, a gym, and new office space to the bustling neighborhood, which has recently seen a slew of high-profile proposals from international firms like Herzog and de Meuron and Bjarke Ingels Group. With the wHY project, the architects will aim to adaptively reuse and greatly expand an existing two-story warehouse structure by topping the existing building with a new, glass-clad structure. The six-story addition—articulated via a structural steel skeleton and clad in curtain wall glazing—is set back from the existing building’s primary facades, creating an L-shaped rooftop terrace overlooking the street. Inside, the structure will contain an automated 241-stall parking garage sandwiched between the mix of programs. Retail uses will be located on the lowest floors and on the terrace level, while the remaining portion of the ground floor will be dedicated to arrival and lobby functions. According to the plans, a gym will share the terrace level with the storefronts. A set of offices will be located above the automated parking component, with the whole complex topped by the private membership club. According to the new renderings, that rooftop level will contain a terrace component and rooftop swimming pool. The new renderings showcase clearer and more articulate views of the project’s varied components, especially the new portion of the building. The new building mass is shown with exaggerated proportions, including structural detailing, cross-bracing elements, and exposed structural steel components. The renderings also indicate that the new, boxy tower portion of the building connects to the existing via a wavy curtain wall-clad wedge. A preliminary timeline for the project estimates completion of the project in early 2019, with construction expected to start in the third quarter of 2017.
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Pabst Brewing Company opens a new microbrewery on its old Milwaukee campus

A little bit of Milwaukee died when the Pabst Brewery closed in 1996. It would be over a decade before anything started to fill in its sprawling campus. Over 20 years have passed and one of the brewery’s most iconic buildings is finally seeing new life… Or is that old life? Pabst Brewing Company has returned to the Brew City in the form of a microbrewery, restaurant, and beer garden. The rehabbed 144-year-old First German Methodist Church will produce upward of 4,000 barrels of beer a year, and seat about 140 people in a dining room, mezzanine, and bar. While Pabst Blue Ribbon will be on tap, the microbrewery will also brew rare German and Belgian beers. Knowing its audience, the new brewery opened April 14, also known locally as Milwaukee Day (414 is Milwaukee’s area code).

Pabst Brewery 1037 West Juneau Avenue Milwaukee Tel: 414-630-1609 Design Architect: Dub Studios Architect of Record: Engberg Anderson
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Historic abandoned Sears complex transformed into affordable housing

Sears and Roebuck Company may no longer be the giant it once was, yet its physical presence is still all over the city of Chicago. As the company had no brick and mortar retail stores until nearly 30 years after its founding in 1886 as a mail-order catalog, many of its earliest buildings were for logistics and storage. One of those old structures is its large original headquarters and catalog printing facility. Abandoned for 40 years, the epic building has now been converted into 181 affordable housing units. Located in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s West Side, the complete renovation was lead by Solomon Cordwell Buenz Architects, James McHugh Construction Co., and Denco, for client Mercy Housing Lakefront. The six-story brick complex will house upwards of 300 residents in 79 one-bedroom units, 52 two-bedroom units, 40 three-bedroom units, and 10 four-bedroom units. Other amenities include a community room, laundry facilities, a computer center, and an exercise facility. The redeveloped complex will now be known as the Lofts on Arthington. Limestone and terracotta details throughout, as well as many of the other original details, were restored in the process of converting the campus. Nearly the entire roof and over 100,000 square feet of flooring had to be completely replaced. Much of the structure had to be updated as well, along with filling in underground tunnels once used by Sears to move across the complex. In recent years, Sears has continued its decline, with an announcement from the company’s leadership expressing “substantial doubt” about its future. Famously, the company’s namesake supertall tower was renamed the Willis Tower in 2014, though most Chicagoans still refer to it as the Sears Tower. The Old Chicago Main Post Office, which was once the largest post office in the world thanks to Sears’s mail-order business, was vacated in 1997. Now with many of Sears’s old buildings being refurbished, and the Old Main Post Office being completely renovated, some of Chicago’s largest structures, from the golden age of mail-order merchandising, are getting a second chance at life.
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James Turrell rooms, a 15-ton Louise Bourgeois sculpture, and many site-specific works feature in MASS MoCA expansion

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) is about to become the largest museum of contemporary art in America. Sitting at the heart of downtown North Adams, the sprawling museum inhabits a hodgepodge of 26 structures, all former 19th-century factory buildings, and the largest of which has just completed renovation. When it opens, Building 6 will add 150,000 square feet to the museum’s already impressive capacity, almost doubling it in size. The building boasts almost an acre per floor plate and is wedged at the convergence of the Hoosic River, making it an odd triangular shape. The point of the triangle marks the end of the museum and is highlighted with a newly-created double-height wall of west-facing windows looking out at the surrounding mountains. With such a large amount of ground to cover, the design team at Cambridge, Massachusetts–based Bruner/Cott & Associates decided to treat the space as a landscape, with artist-dedicated rooms and two-story volumes punctuating the relentlessly horizontal space, according to lead designer and Principal Jason Forney. Altogether, Building 6 brings MASS MoCA’s total gallery square footage to 250,000 square feet, of which 40,000 square feet of space is dedicated to the performing arts. (Performing arts makes up about 50 percent of the museum’s programming.) With new event spaces and an expanded back-of-house in Building 6, the museum is now more equipped to cater to their summer music festival crowds and provide artists with more workshop space to realize their art. As the latest addition comes together, teams of fabricators and curators are working to realize some of the complex site-specific works that will soon call MASS MoCA home. In the exhibit of works by James Turrell, whose pieces require large volumes of space, a team of nineteen people has been working since December. Because Turrell uses light and color fields, it was important for him to provide visitors with moments of visual quiet to help their eyes adjust between the different atmospheres, which he was able to coordinate with the design team. Where Turrell required volume and circulation, MASS MoCA's new Louise Bourgeois artwork required beefing up the already hardy structure. The museum will host several of her marble sculptures, one of which weighs 15 tons. In order accommodate these pieces, a new concrete structure and steel fillers were added, and a hole was cut into the side of the building to crane the sculptures into place. It may sound like a lot of gymnastics, but as Director Joseph C. Thompson put it, it’s what Mass MoCA was designed to do. It is also what makes MASS MoCA such a unique art-viewing experience. Where most museums are washed in white, painstakingly designed to maximize lighting and minimize distractions, Building 6 is well-worn, dominated by relentless columns and flooded with natural light from its hundreds of windows. It is unmistakably an old mill and yet, somehow, it works. “The buildings, as you can see, are almost painfully beautiful, but they’re tough. They’re rugged, vernacular, raw, American industrial buildings,” said Thompson. “So the work we show here can either stand up to that or it looks beautiful in juxtaposition to that.” The building’s ‘rugged’ and ‘raw’ aesthetic is preserved, but not without a few alterations. Columns were removed where necessary and replaced with “ghosts,” or wooden caps in the floor. New steel columns were placed to bear the burden of their ‘ghosted’ brethren and were painted with white fire-protectant paint, standing in stark contrast to their weathered wooden neighbors. Rather than disguise the alterations to preserve the building’s character, each intrusion was highlighted as a visual index of the building’s new life. “I think you can be too tentative and have too much respect for the old when it doesn’t deserve it,” said Forney. “This building was altered and changed to accommodate whatever operation it had going so we started to see this as just a continuation of all the changes that had happened over time. It was about preserving this living museum instead of preserving each wall or each window.” The new space promises to be an intriguing precedent for future museums and, if nothing else, will be a great place to get your steps in walking the almost four miles of galleries. MASS MoCA will open Building 6 on May 28 and will house works from James Turrell, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, Laurie Anderson, Gunnar Schonbeck, and many others. For more information about the museum and to visit the new space, visit MASS MoCA’s website here.
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Gluckman-Tang, LTL, and NADAAA selected as finalists for arts center in Telluride, Colorado

A tiny mountain town nestled in the Rocky Mountains is bringing in the big guns for the adaptive reuse of a beloved crumbling warehouse in its burgeoning arts district. Already a destination for the outdoorsy, the former mining village of Telluride, Colorado, decided to add ‘thriving arts community’ to the list of reasons to come and visit. Local non-profit Telluride Arts was instrumental in the push for more cultural programming and is responsible for the adaptive reuse of the dilapidated, but adored, Telluride Transfer Warehouse. The 6,000-square-foot sandstone warehouse stands at the heart of the arts district, making it an ideal spot for a center for the arts and a good candidate for restoration. After gaining approval for restoration, Telluride Arts launched a national design competition earlier this year. "Key elements of the program include a Kunsthalle for exhibitions, flexible spaces that transform to host a multitude of events, and a small, museum-style bar/cafe that invites a constant flow of people and casual gatherings into a living-room atmosphere," said the arts organization on their website. Thirty firms put their names forward and, after careful selection, three finalists have been chosen: Gluckman-Tang and Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis of New York, and NADAAA of Boston. The finalists will now have two months and a $10,000 stipend to put together a conceptual plan ready to present to the community on May 30. During that time, the teams will visit Telluride get to know the town and the little warehouse that could. The building is listed as a National Historic Landmark and has stood for over 100 years. Originally built in 1906, it was in use until its roof collapsed in 1979. Since then, the building has stood vacant and decaying, a period that has become as much a part of its history as the life it had prior to 1979. NADAAA touched on this relationship of crumbling historic landmark and contemporary cultural hub in their statement to Telluride Arts. “Rare is the opportunity to both preserve an important historic landmark and create something wholly unprecedented,” said Katie Faulkner and Nader Tehrani of NADAAA. “The Transfer Warehouse stands as a monument to Telluride’s history of perseverance. The fundamental challenge of the project will be to maintain the power of the ruin while sponsoring the vision and opportunity through architectural speculation for the Arts District.” The final presentation will occur in Telluride on May 30 and Telluride Arts anticipates construction on the project to begin in 2019. To learn more about the Telluride Transfer Warehouse visit the Telluride Arts website here.
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Fougeron Architecture transforms a 1920s building into a home for organizations fighting for tech industry diversity

Like a big house accommodating different family members, the new Kapor Center needed to support three distinct-but-related organizations: Kapor Capital, the Kapor Center for Social Impact, and the Level Playing Field Institute. Each needed to share modern offices and venues for gatherings, tours, and discussions, all in one building, but without leaving each function isolated and cut-off. Additionally, the design had to fit within an existing 1920s building on an irregular site in the heart of Oakland, California. All three groups are dedicated to increasing the tech industry's diversity, though approach the challenge from different angles: Kapor Capital invests in companies that address social inequalities, the Center builds partnerships to increase Oakland residents' access to the tech sector, and the Institute tackles barriers to minorities learning STEM subjects. All three groups are also the work of tech industry veterans Mitch Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein; the husband-and-wife team held a design competition and tapped San Francisco–based Fougeron Architecture to build a new Center to consolidate their efforts. "We love mission-driven architecture," said firm founder Anne Fougeron. "For us, it represents, in some ways, the furthering of the missions we had with Planned Parenthood," a longstanding and repeat client for Fougeron Architecture. At the heart of Fougeron's pitch were two cylindrical volumes located atop one another that could unite the project's diverse programming. The bottom volume connects the ground floor to a lower level that features a double-height auditorium. The upper volume, which cuts through a range of workspaces, is topped by a channel glass oculus and an extensive rooftop terrace. The Kapors were sold: "I wanted to create some verticality... connections between the floors, but also visual connections that you remember," Fougeron said. "Almost a mnemonic device. You would always feel, while you were in the building, that you had an understanding of what the floors were like and what people were doing there." In addition to creating an open and democratic environment, the volumes could impress visitors and host the diverse social functions that come with the business and nonprofit world. "Freada wanted this integrated building, one that had a fair amount of pizzazz," added Fougeron. "She wanted something people would walk into and go 'wow.'" The 45,000-square-foot project's biggest challenge was the existing structure, which had been repeatedly remodeled over the years. But demolishing it wasn't an option: "For [the Kapors], reusing the building is about this respect of place in Oakland." Reusing 75% of the existing building also helped the project attain LEED Gold certification. Other sustainable features included bicycle parking, low flow fixtures, natural ventilation strategies, and recycled materials such as glass tile, redwood, and carpet tile. The newly-added fourth floor, in addition to its green roof, drought-tolerant plants, and heat-reducing wood decking (all other LEED pluses), features the oculus itself, which glows at night. The illuminated capstone not only distinguishes the Center but simultaneously symbolizes its "role to grow outward and upward within the community,"  as the firm wrote in a press release.
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Explore these two major adaptive reuse projects in Washington, D.C.

Arlington, Virginia—based practice Antunovich Associates has recently completed two adaptive reuse projects in Washington D.C. through Douglas Development: The former Hecht Company Warehouse and Uline Arena now offer living units and offices respectively, while both are home to new retail spaces. Located along New York Avenue, NE and a stone's throw away from the U.S. Capitol, the Hecht Company Warehouse is now home to 335 loft-style apartment units and 150,000 square feet of retail. Kevin Sperry, senior principle at Antunovich Associates, said the warehouse is "an esteemed Washington landmark." The firm has retained the building's historic and iconic glass block exterior, which stands six stories tall and runs along both New York Avenue and Fenwick Street. The glass block crown that sits atop its rounded corner is a rejuvenated beacon whose life and vitality is mirrored by new street-level activity. Here, a series of shops—notably a Nike outlet—now line New York Avenue, joined by broad sidewalks and shade-providing trees that accommodate outdoor dining and sidewalk cafes. In addition, an exterior court to the southeast of the historic portion of the Hecht Company Warehouse will accompany a grand entrance to the building. Residents, meanwhile, live in the five floors above. To cater to its new inhabitants, as well as the influx of people to the neighborhood, a garage and street parking facilities were built to the east of the building. This was achieved through the partial demolition of the one-story warehouse additions that adjoined the building. Southwest of Ivy City, in the NoMa neighborhood, Antunovich Associates undertook another mixed-use historical re-working. The 2.5-acre site of the Uline Arena encompasses the arena itself and an Icehouse building. The former hosted the first live Beatles performance in the United States in 1964, meanwhile, the latter, as its name suggests, featured a skating rink and ice hockey events. Work on the project saw the addition of more than 50,000 square feet of retail space and three times that of office space. A new above-ground parking structure accommodates 175 spaces while an interior courtyard (also new) provides abundant natural sunlight and a tranquil space for office tenants. Founder of Antunovich Associates, Joseph Antunovich will be speaking at the next Facades+AM conference in D.C. this March 9. There he will discuss his firm's adaptive reuse work in further detail. Seating is limited. To register, go to am.facadesplus.com.
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1940s Texas gas station gets retro rebirth as new Megabus stop

Tim Derrington, founder of Derrington Building Studio in Austin, Texas, opened his firm during the recession when he found it was easier to find clients than jobs. He said his studio’s work is modern in concept, but more regional vernacular in aesthetic and style, always playing off the context. That rings particularly true in Derrington's most recent project, the adaptive reuse of a small gas station into a Megabus station. “Everybody has driven by or seen that building,” said Derrington. “It’s prominent and it’s background at the same time.” (It’s located a few blocks from the University of Texas and the state capital.) Built in 1941, it was originally a Conoco station that maintained much of its original character through the years. Derrington said that altering the building’s original exterior was out of the question; instead they would clean it up and celebrate its character. He felt it was important not to paint the building a bright color and insisted that the color white would accentuate the form and textures of the original structure. Luckily, Megabus agreed and the company's bright gold and blue scheme became accents that played off the structure’s more retro elements. The blue, in particular, Derrington said, connects the building to its context by playing off the big blue Texas sky. “It almost painted itself,” he added. Preserving the original tile work on the exterior was also deemed non-negotiable. “The building owner’s wife fell in love with the tile and it was mandated that ‘thou shall not touch the tile,’” Derrington explained. “Nobody wanted to anyway, it’s just a neat little feature.” The tile already matched the new color scheme, so it was easy to incorporate. Of the many retro features the studio kept, he said the Jetsons-like rings around the tops of the columns were one of the more iconic elements that spoke to the building’s roots. Although the quirky features like that give the building a lot of character, Derrington added that his favorite elements are the panoramic steel windows on the back façade. In order to keep the original windows, years of paint needed to be excised. “There were guys out there scraping for days,” he said. On the interior, the team removed everything, scraping all of the paint and finishes down to the original walls. They also added bathrooms and a kiosk for the waiting patrons; Kimberly Bruce of Designs and Details Interiors LLC designed the interior, including the selection of all the interior finishes. Derrington also credited Joey Chioco of Chioco Development, Inc. as general contractor on the project. Since its completion, the building has received a lot of attention from the community. “So many people were appreciative of the fact that we maintained the original character,” said Derrington. “It made me realize that this is a special building and it should be shared.” In the end, he said his studio was proud it could bring a diamond out of the rough. “The idea was to make this into something that is a desirable place, a nice place, to be so that bus travel no longer has this stigma,” Derrington said. Now that the station is complete, the studio is moving on with several other projects in Austin, including a few homes, a school, and an extension to a rock-climbing gym they designed.
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Atlanta-based BLDGS brings new creativity to adaptive reuse projects

The Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series spotlight individuals and firms with distinct design “voices” that have the potential to influence the discipline of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. The jury, composed of Sunil Bald, Mario Gooden, Lisa Gray, Paul Lewis, Jing Liu, Thomas Phifer, Bradley Samuels, Billie Tsien, and Ian Volner, selected architects and designers who have significant bodies of realized work that creatively address larger issues in the built environment.

The Architect's Newspaper featured the Emerging Voices firms in our February issue; stay tuned as we upload those articles to our website over the coming weeks. The firm featured below (Atlanta, GA–based BLDGS) will deliver their lecture on March 2, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

When Brian Bell and David Yocum first founded BLDGS 10 years ago, they didn’t plan to specialize in adaptive reuse—certainly not in Atlanta, a city not necessarily known for exploring the past.

But after they continued to land such commissions, they began to relish the role and have elevated this ever-expanding realm of architecture to a more creative, thoughtful, complex level than almost any firm has been able to achieve.

“We take a lot of pleasure in uncovering,” Yocum said. “If we can find the truth in each of the challenges and kind of reflect the presence of that truth it gives us a lot that we would not be able to layer onto a project.”

Bell and Yocum met at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and then worked together at Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects in Atlanta. They founded their firm in 2006, spurred mostly through work from art galleries, whose budgets and interests called for work within existing spaces. One of their first, Whitespace Gallery, is located inside an 1880s carriage house. Impressed by how clearly the original functions were expressed structurally, they set out to not only maintain that core, but also express the building’s new artistic focus with equal intensity. They hid lighting and HVAC along the periphery, and installed thin, floating panels—framed in steel—to display art.

Yocum calls this inserting the “featherlike presence of the new while respecting the gravity of the old.”

“We’re pushing and pulling off things that are seen and unseen rather than inventing from our own imagination,” added Bell. “There’s a lot of fascination with the situation that’s already there.”

Their work has continued along these lines, pushing and pulling on the complex layers of existing materials and techniques and the addition of contemporary ones. The installation Boundary Issues at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center removed contemporary plaster walls to display a mesmerizing combination of existing paint and bricks.Essentially they practiced addition by subtraction, architecture’s version of etching away a solid in a block print.

For their Caddell classroom and faculty building at Georgia Tech, they took cues for a new canopy from the structural logic of the existing 1950s building, whose steel frame is hidden behind a concrete exterior. The resulting canopy of aluminum louvers looks ultra-light from below, but like the original building, its thick steel frame is hidden above, out of sight. At Congregation Or Hadash Synagogue, they converted a former Chevrolet paint and auto body repair shop by carefully carving away its tilt-up concrete and sheet metal cladding, creating a radically different typology, nonetheless informed by its bones.

Even their only ground-up building, the Burned House in Atlanta, plays with history. Its cladding is painted with dozens of layers of paints, stencils, metallics, and other markings, which are meant to become exposed as the paint decays. Its interior plays with solid and void, with spaces pushed and pulled in unusual configurations to maximize exposure and push the boundaries of expectation.

“We wanted to think of history in reverse,” said Yocum. “Everything has a historical presence. If you’re not exploring that you’re missing opportunities.”