Posts tagged with "Adaptive Reuse":

Dreyfuss + Blackford’s historic power station conversion breaks ground in Sacramento

The $50 million Powerhouse Science Center, a Beaux Arts style power plant redevelopment project in Sacramento, California, has broken ground. Helmed by Sacramento-based Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture (D+B), the project takes the riverfront power station and reimagines it as regional science and educational center. Some of the redevelopment includes rehabilitating the former Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Power Station B, a power station sitting on the banks of the Sacramento River. The renovation aims to highlight the original use of the building, as well as the technological advances of energy production in the early 20th century. “In 1912, the PG&E Power Station B brought a backup source of electricity - something very new and technologically advanced - to the Sacramento region,” said Jason A. Silva, a design principal with D+B, in ENR California. “This concept of advanced technology is what inspires the placement and concept of the Powerhouse Science Center.” The original structure was designed in 1912 by architect Willis Polk during Sacramento’s recovery from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and was once the largest power plant north of San Francisco. It closed in 1954 and was declared a Superfund site in 1986 due to a high concentration of heavy metals in the soil. The adaptive reuse project covers 53,100 square-feet, including 22,800 square-feet of new space, to convert the structure into a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) center. There will also be a two-story addition that protrudes from the east side of the power station, containing main circulation, classrooms, offices, a café, and a 120-seat planetarium that rises above the building. Further work is being done to the building envelope, which is undergoing stabilization of the existing reinforced concrete and steel. A new intermediate floor will be added inside the historic structure for additional exhibition space. All of the renovations for the center are aimed towards a LEED Silver rating. The project is scheduled for completion in 2020.

Kuth Ranieri Architects transforms an abandoned roller coaster into an aviary in China

Some might say adaptive reuse is for the birds—in which case, San Francisco–based Kuth Ranieri Architects might happen to agree. The office is currently working on an unexpected adaptive-reuse project in Suzhou, China—just outside Shanghai—with fellow Bay Area landscape architects TLS Landscape Architecture, with the aim of repurposing an aged amusement park at the foot of the iconic Lion Mountain into a central green for a new, technology-focused residential hub. For the Shishan Park project, TLS has designed a district-wide master plan focused on a new circular promenade surrounding the old central lake that once anchored the forgotten fun park. The development is carved into ten subdistricts, each anchored by iconic pavilions—also designed by Kuth Ranieri—and recreational spaces “capitalizing on the site’s natural and man-made lakes as well as the mountain’s historic significance and beauty,” according to the architects. Overall, TLS’s designs highlight 18 “poetic scenes” that visually connect occupants to the existing lake, nature zones, and views of the five distinct mountaintops that can be seen from the site. At the heart of the new urban area is the disused amusement park and its original metallic roller coaster, which Kuth Ranieri plans to convert into a new, 160,000-square-foot visual and functional center for the 182-acre development. Utilizing stainless steel mesh netting to create the outermost enclosure and wooden decking and steel platforms for new occupiable promenades, Kuth Ranieri reenvisions the dilapidated roller coaster as a superscaled aviary. The plan includes a circuitous “infinity walk” that takes occupants up and through the reused roller-coaster structure to perches above the treetops furnished with viewing platforms and an expansive sky deck. The complex can be entered from any one of three access points framed by glass-wrapped concrete parabolic arches that extend into the aviary as covered walkways. Within, the complex will also contain a ten-story circulation tower that can bring visitors up to the highest observation levels. Here, a wide staircase containing landings generous enough to host public programming will wrap the elevator core. The complex will also include a green roof–topped animal care facility. The metallic enclosure surrounding the aviary is inspired by traditional Chinese ink paintings and, more specifically, by representations of Lion Mountain in such artworks. The cascading, rounded geometries of the canopy are designed to evoke “a feeling of layered misty mountains,” according to Kuth Ranieri. The project is scheduled for completion in 2020.

Ford Motors buys iconic Michigan Central Station in Detroit

Thirty years after the last Amtrak train pulled out of Detroit’s now notorious Michigan Central Station (MCS), Ford Motor Company has confirmed the purchase of the structure from longtime owner Matthew Moroun. Crain’s Detroit Business first reported Ford to be in possible negotiation to purchase the 1913 Beaux Arts passenger station in Corktown in March 2018, but could not provide details on the sale. In a press conference in front of the station's colonnaded entrance on June 11, Moroun announced that the Ford Motor Company would act as developer, owner and user of the landmark structure. Ford is expected to detail its plans for the building on June 19. The three-story depot with attached 18-story office tower has become a convenient symbol for Detroiters and preservationists to both criticize the city’s development practices and celebrate the ability of its unique as-is built environment to inspire the cultural class. Michigan Central Station has born witness to the complexities of Detroit’s 21st century narrative, particularly in Corktown. MCS sat idle as the last game was played at Tiger Stadium in 1999 and finally demolished in 2009, just as Major League Baseball stadium owners were figuring out that fans preferred an authentic urban experience around their ballparks—bars, restaurants and neighborhoods—over convenient parking, a scenario that had naturally occurred in Corktown. As new development crept east along Michigan Avenue, it began to encircle MCS. In 2015, the building mysteriously received new windows and a freight elevator, and in 2017, it hosted “Detroit Homecoming,” an invitation-only event that filled the graffitied, Roman bathhouse-inspired waiting room with banquet tables and former Motor City expats in an attempt to lure possible investors. MCS is no stranger to redevelopment plans. A casino was proposed in the building for the first time in 1989, with former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick proposing to reuse the structure as headquarters for the Detroit Police Department in 2003. Armed by the 1984 Dangerous Building Ordinance, the City of Detroit moved to demolish the structure in 2009 using federal economic stimulus money but was prevented from doing so based on the MCS’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. “This amazing news is a testament to the fact that it’s important to hang on to historic buildings even if they’re vacant and even if we can’t see the endgame immediately,” said urban planner Claire Nowak-Boyd. “Detroit is changing rapidly right now. Few people would have imagined this outcome in 2009.”

With an assist from psychology, architect George Ranalli reinvents the renovation

There’s an adage that the greenest building is the one that’s already built, but just because we see the potential in existing structures today doesn’t mean adaptive reuse was always treated with respect. When New York architect George Ranalli began retrofitting buildings in the 1970s, remodeling was considered the “dowdy cousin” of new, modern architecture, as design historians Sally Stone and Graeme Brooker phrased it in Rereadings, their 2004 tome on the topic. But that idea has changed, thanks to the visionary work of architects like Ranalli who have shown the opportunities that can come from giving a space a new lease on life. “The more beautiful and memorable [something] is, the more you associate your personal memories and experiences with that—that's what fuses together and becomes the lasting recollection and history of a place,” said Ranalli, who sees remodeling as more than just a sensible solution for sustainability and economics. For him, reuse is a way to tap into the human need to feel connected to the ebb and flow of history. “It's why we go and take pictures in front of buildings,” he explains. In the decades since his creation of the Ranalli Studio—a multifunctional, multilevel space within a 400-square-foot studio apartment—in 1976 and the groundbreaking Callender School conversion in 1979, Ranalli has created a new visual vocabulary for interior reinvention that has reshaped the very way we understand residential spaces. In many cases, like the recent renovation of two loft spaces in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood into a single custom-tailored home, that means inserting new forms into a “host space,” always with a membrane of the original architecture around it. The result is a layering of public and private functions—all while preserving the qualities of light and openness that attracted people to these historic properties in the first place. For the Chelsea client, Ranalli introduced a “box” with a curved face that supports a lofted sleeping space while housing the bathroom, kitchen, and plenty of storage. That way, he explained, “there's an in-front-of, a behind, and an on-top-of.” The new structure leaves a light-filled double-height living and dining room, where the eye is brought back down to the human scale and “the finer grain of design” through the addition of plywood panels affixed to the wall with an ornamental pattern of stainless-steel screws. “The materials are a second and third layer of visual texture, so that space isn't bland; it's able to sustain a long period of inhabitation,” Ranalli said. To further heighten the visual interest and raise the simple material to the level of the items around it, Ranalli has the sheets of Russian birch plywood cut into interlocking panels, joined with a “counterpoint” of thin strips of walnut where they meet. “If it's too simple, it gets boring after a number of years,” Ranalli said of the reasoning behind his detailed approach. The firm arrives at such deeply personal results by starting with a research phase spearheaded by its social scientist, Dr. Anne Valentino, Ranalli’s creative partner and wife. Asking pointed questions about their clients’ earliest memories of home, the pair are able to create hyper-customized designs that reflect—and facilitate—clients’ lifestyles by linking back to the concept of “goodness of fit,” the idea that people are just naturally inclined to respond well to certain things. This collaboration has helped Ranalli understand what he described as “the psychological associations between everyday experience and memory, how the environment accumulates memory and ultimately its history over time.” The firm’s individualized approach for the Chelsea client led her to discover a new appreciation of art and design—from the colorful Gaetano Pesce vessels that complement the apartment’s pared-down palette to the Plug-in City print by Archigram designer Peter Cook. The urbanist concept seems to have presaged the design philosophy of the apartment, only on a citywide scale. “In a way, her whole apartment is sort of plugged into itself,” Valentino said. “Spaces within spaces."

Helmut Jahn’s Thompson Center reimagined in new renderings by Landmarks Illinois

In conjunction with its annual list of endangered buildings, Landmarks Illinois has released a series of renderings that reimagines Helmut Jahn’s James R. Thompson Center with enhanced public space, while playing up its potential for adaptive re-use with an addition of a super tower.  Proposed by Jahn’s office in 2017, the super-tower is shown poised at the southwest corner of the structure, maximizing the Thompson Center’s zoning and revenue potential while minimizing the impact of the additional construction on the interior atrium, the most significant aspect of the building's provocative design. The tower could accommodate office spaces, a hotel, residencies or a combination of all three. Constructed to provide a visible state government presence in Chicago, the James R. Thompson Center, originally the State of Illinois Building, was lauded by critics, ordinary Chicagoans and users of the building when it was completed in 1985. The building was hyperactive, wildly over budget and required extensive retrofits in order for it to keep state employees from frying beneath the extensive plate glass and subdued red, white and blue paneling. Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has called for selling off the building and demolishing it numerous times, viewing the land the Thompson Center sits on as a more valuable commodity than the building itself. The redevelopment of the building as proposed by Landmarks Illinois retains the use of the building as a nexus point for multiple CTA public transit lines, restores the exterior granite panels and complementary columns, and demonstrates how a creative developer could take advantage of the 20 percent federal historic tax credits via a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The James R. Thompson Center is making a repeat appearance on Landmarks Illinois's Most Endangered Places in Illinois list for a second year in a row, one of only four sites in the organization’s history to be listed multiple times.

L.A.-based Omgivning pushes the limits of adaptive reuse

Los Angeles–based Omgivning, though only nine years old, is already well known when it comes to adaptively reusing some of L.A.’s most historic structures. The firm’s name—taken from the Swedish word for “ambiance”—was started by Karin Liljegren in 2009 after she spent 15 years specializing in adaptive reuse projects, including the revitalization of Downtown L.A.’s Old Bank District, at Killefer Flammang Architects. Liljegren’s office grew out of a desire to “help people connect to something” in their built environment, as she explains it, a concept the designers use to push the limits of adaptive reuse. The office has worked on over 250 projects, everything from two-million-square-foot behemoths to tiny coffee shops, and it currently has a slate of impressive designs in the pipeline that will help reshape how Angelenos live and work in their city. Broadway Trade Center Omgivning is currently working on a 1.1-million-square-foot restoration of the Broadway Trade Center in Downtown Los Angeles. The five-story Beaux Arts–style structure—designed in 1908 by Alfred Rosenheim as a department store—has been underutilized since the 1970s. Omgivning is repurposing the building into a mixed-use complex that will contain storefronts and a food hall along the ground with 400,000 square feet of creative office spaces on the levels above. The architects will also add a series of rooftop structures to the complex, housing a private social club, a 100,000-square-foot hotel, and two roof decks. Though the project will contain two separate rooftop pools, designs are being carried out in a somewhat open-ended fashion in anticipation of potential market shifts that could require the complex to be reorganized in the future. Sears Building The office is also working to reconfigure one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks: the Sears, Roebuck & Company Mail Order Building designed by George C. Nimmons, in Boyle Heights. The art deco megastructure contains 1.8 million square feet of interior space and is made up of eight separate structures all contained under one roof. For the project, Omgivning is carving nine light courts into the ten-story building to bring in daylight and accentuate each of the building’s discrete sections. The light courts will create massive indoor atria while also allowing for the restoration of the original facades along each of these exposures. The massive development will act as a “city unto itself,” Liljegren explains, adding that the scale of the project is such that it can support a wide array of uses, like restaurants, 100,000 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet of creative offices, 1,030 residential units, and a 130,000-square-foot rooftop. Broadway Lofts Omgivning’s recently completed Broadway Lofts project brings 58 live-work units to an adaptively reused six-story historic office building in Downtown L.A. The complex is packed with multilevel lofts that are connected via new light wells, similar to but at a much smaller scale than the light wells planned for the Sears building. The wells, spanned by new glass bridges and highlighted with floor-to-ceiling window assemblies populated by colored glass, bring interior views and daylight to each of the units. The arrangement allows for each of the 650-square-foot units to receive daylight from two directions. Don Francisco’s Coffee The office also works at the small scale, as evidenced by the tropically inspired designs for the 4,500-square-foot Don Francisco’s Coffee storefront in the historic Spring Arcade Building in Downtown L.A. The white-walled Cuban-themed cafe features wooden midcentury modern furniture, decorative tilework, and gold-topped tables strewn about a long, narrow space. The soaring volume is divided up by concrete structural columns, while a pair of arched doorways frame a separate study room lined with tropical plants.

BNIM updates and rebuilds a historic Kansas City church ravaged by fire

Not much was left after a devastating fire ravaged the Westport Presbyterian Church, in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2011. Originally built in 1905, the church saw its roof structure, interior structure, and all interior finishes destroyed. All that remained undamaged was the exterior limestone wall. This is where Kansas City–based BNIM began on what was to become a complete transformation of the neighborhood icon. Westport Presbyterian Church is located in one of Kansas City’s oldest historic neighborhoods, surrounded by streets lined with vibrantly painted bungalows and cottages. The lively neighborhood was originally the westernmost trading outpost in the region, serving pioneers venturing on the California, Santa Fe, and Oregon Trails, which all converged in Kansas City. By the time the church was built, the area had recently been annexed into the city, which was itself booming thanks to the railroad. The congregation dates to 1835, and the building has been in the same location since just after the Civil War. Yet even before the fire, the church was working to change its relationship with the surrounding community. “They had already started a process of rethinking what their church would be in the changing culture of Westport,” Erik Heitman, project architect at BNIM, said. “They wanted to re-envision what they were, and how they could serve the community. They not only had to re-envision what their congregation was, but what was the building that serves that mission. They never thought they would rebuild it as it was. This was a chance to reinvent themselves.” Rather than attempt to return the church to its original design, BNIM worked with the church staff to rethink how the community could use the building. A 1916 addition damaged beyond repair would be replaced by a new structure that included a bright public-facing storefront. A welcoming entrance directly on the street, and its interior space, are now available to local groups. The new construction would also provide space for creating and displaying art by one of the church’s own outreach organizations. Thinking about the outward connection to the community, the exterior space was redesigned to provide places to gather adjacent to corresponding interiors. While adding new functional spaces to the church updated the building’s use and presence in the neighborhood, it would be the restoration of the sacred spaces that would present the greatest challenges. It took firefighters over 13 hours to extinguish the fire, leaving the building either burned beyond recognition or destroyed by water. The original sanctuary, chapel, second floor, and basement would all have to be completely rebuilt. Yet, elements of the building were salvaged. Heitman described it as “a new sanctuary delicately placed into the original stone walls.” After a careful restoration, the stained-glass windows were reinstalled in the nave, this time at the parishioner’s eye level. Unable to be used structurally, 40,000 linear feet of the original wood framing was captured for interior finishes as well. Ironically, one of the new design elements of the sanctuary found its genesis in the temporary space the congregation used after the fire. While only limited natural light was allowed into the original sanctuary through stained glass, the temporary rental space was washed with natural light through clear vision glass. Wanting to include and improve this effect, a ribbon clerestory was added, encircling the entire sanctuary. Effectively filling the space with dramatic natural light, the clerestory also hints at the relationship between the new walls and the now-visible original stonewalls. While the destruction of a historic building is never a good thing, the long-standing congregation found a way to use it to their advantage. With a vision of what its congregation could be, and help from BNIM, the Westport Presbyterian Church was able to realize a more open and inviting presence in one of Kansas City’s most dynamic neighborhoods.

Seattle votes to tear down a highway tunnel, but designers see valuable public space

This week, the Seattle city council approved a timeline to tear down the elevated Highway 99 viaduct, a double-layered roadway that was damaged by an earthquake in 2001. As Seattle presses on with its expensive and sometimes controversial plan to bore an underground replacement Highway 99 tunnel, some groups are questioning what will be done with the land underneath the existing highway. While plans to revitalize Seattle’s waterfront in 2019 have been well-publicized, an opportunity to add more public space to the offering may lurk even further down. The Highway 99 viaduct currently runs over Battery Street Tunnel, a 2,000-foot-long, 60-foot-wide artery under the street, scheduled to be decommissioned alongside the viaduct. Although the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plans to fill the 120,000-square-foot tunnel with concrete, Recharge the Battery, a collection of architects, artists and planners, have proposed activating the roadway as a public space. After Recharge the Battery took public comments in September on how to transform the space, some of the ideas that came to the forefront were an inclusive public park, bath house, interactive art gallery, monster hall of fame, and turning the tunnel into a skate park. The group has argued that, following successful adaptive resuse projects in cities around the world, such as the High Line and Transit Museum in New York, giving the Battery Street Tunnel a second life isn’t impossible. “To look at the tunnel simply as a liability and fill it in is a one-sided take,” said Jon Kiehnau, Recharge the Battery ‘s co-founder. “You have to look at the fact that the tunnel is 120,000 square feet. Based on the current price of real estate it’s worth more than $100 million. You have to look at what a positive thing it can be.” Although competing visions for the tunnel have been offered, it’s uncertain whether WSDOT would alter their infill plans, or even decouple the decommissioning of the viaduct from the destruction of the Battery Street Tunnel. WSDOT spokesperson Laura Newborn has stated that the department is legally obligated to fill in the tunnel, as it has become seismically unstable and expensive to maintain. Even Recharge the Battery has acknowledged that retrofitting the tunnel to meet seismic safety standards could cost anywhere from $10 million to $100 million. With WSDOT scheduled to begin decommissioning work in February, Recharge the Battery and the general public only have a few months left to plead their case.

Perkins+Will revives old Atlanta Dairies plant as a cultural destination

With its red-and-white milk carton raised proudly along Memorial Drive, the Atlanta Dairies cooperative served Georgia's capital for 60 years. Complete with a Streamline Moderne facade and typographic logo, the cooperative's site had an aura that was deliciously 1950s (it was built just one year prior, in 1949). Like all milk, however, it couldn't stay out in the Southern sun for too long, and today, the site is in a state of dereliction. But this is set to change, through a Perkins+Will–designed scheme, backed by developer Paces Properties, that will reimagine the former plant. The ten-acre lot will soon be home to offices while doubling as a new cultural and entertainment destination in Downtown Atlanta, offering a music venue, retail outlets, cafes, and dining options. The all-encompassing program will feed off bisecting catwalks that span most of the site. While not original to the existing historical building, the catwalks were added when the building became a processing plant. They represent what Erika Kane, project architect at Perkins+Will, described as part of the "building and site’s eclectic evolution over time." Bar the old and damaged metal facade panels that were hanging off the rails, the catwalk structures have been kept in their entirety. A new open-air catwalk will also be installed. Mostly made from exposed steel, the catwalk continues to echo the site's industrial heritage. It will serve as a visual guide, drawing visitors down a large pedestrian corridor to the main courtyard at the heart of the site. "Atlanta Dairies is as much of a landscape architecture project as it is about the buildings," said Kane. "The buildings provide a rich visual framework and programmatic content around these outdoor spaces and the catwalks float above the ground level, linking up the five buildings on the Atlanta Dairies site." Further features of the old building will also be preserved. This includes loading docks, along with the iconic curved brick wall which looks onto Memorial Drive. Maintaining the material precedent set, a brick and steel colonnade complements the loading dock found on the west elevation. Kane described the architects' approach: "This component was not a part of the original building, but again, a fun appendage added over time. For these components, we took more of an adaptive reuse strategy, keeping the uniqueness of the element, but carving into it to keep it porous and in line with the pedestrian-friendly and park-like layout of the site." In addition to this, the original masonry from the loading dock was salvaged with what Perkins+Will called a “truck wash portico.” This will frame outdoor patios for a restaurant, coffee shop, and retail tenants along the facade. "The site is layered in many ways; historically, topographically and programmatically, with new, existing and adaptive reuse structures," Kane continued. "These layers are all connected with these organizing elements. The design of the two entirely new structures on the site, the new four-story office building and music venue uses a contemporary facade language that, together with the second-story addition on the adaptive reuse building, complements the historic Streamline Moderne building." Phase One of the project broke ground in March this year and is headed for completion in late 2018. Erika Kane will be speaking about the project in greater detail at the Atlanta Facades+ Conference on January 26 in 2018. For more information and booking visit am2017atlanta.facadesplus.com. Seating is limited.

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."

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.”

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.”