Renovation transforms decommissioned McKim Mead & White building into campus event space.When Amherst College decided to convert a former steam plant into a student event space, the choice likely struck some observers as odd. Designed in 1925 by McKim, Mead & White, the coal-burning plant was decommissioned in the 1960s; since the 1980s, it had been used as a makeshift garage for ground equipment. The facade of the neglected building needed to be opened up to reveal its potential while respecting its good bones. "It wasn't in great shape, but it wasn't in terrible shape," said Bruner/Cott's Dana Kelly. "Impressively enough, the school recognized that it had qualities that could be harnessed for a new student space." The brick building's industrial aesthetic was a particular draw, said Kelly, whose firm has spearheaded renovations at the nearby MASS MoCA (itself a former industrial complex) since the museum opened in 1999. For Amherst College, Bruner/Cott took a similar approach, balancing preservation and alteration to support the new program without disrupting the historic building's essential character. By the time Bruner/Cott began work on the Powerhouse, the original brick envelope had already seen a lot of change. Earlier renovators had filled windows with glass block, rebuilt a blind arch in mismatching brick, and cut a large garage door into the south facade. "Since the building had been altered so much, we chose to continue the dialogue by restoring or reconstructing some exterior elements, and sensitively altering others to match the new use and open the building up to campus," said Bruner/Cott's Jason Forney and Aoife Morris. On the side of the building facing the campus road, the architects inserted a new steel and glass entrance into a blind brick arch. On the south facade, to connect the interior to the new outdoor terrace, they inserted historic replica windows and french doors in place of the glass block, and swapped out the roll-up garage door for a bi-fold glass door. On the north side, which faces the parking lot, Bruner/Cott retained the existing glass block. "The observer still reads the McKim, Mead & White design, but with the changes the building has evolved to be an extroverted part of campus instead of being an introverted coal-burning steam plant," said Forney and Morris. Environmental performance was a priority for the architects, who will monitor the building's energy consumption during occupancy. They talked Amherst College into opting for operable windows over mechanical cooling. For heat, they chose a hydronic radiant floor and an overhead infrared heater that runs on gas. "These systems work to heat the bodies of occupants, instead of heating the large volume of air in the space," explained Forney and Morris. An insulated chamber designed by Bruner/Cott captures waste heat from the new steam plant below the building and releases it into the event space during the winter. The architects chose not to insulate the interior walls "since their character was an important design element for the event space," said Forney and Morris. To compensate, they installed a new slate roof, heavily insulated with spray-on cellulose. The new roof, noted Forney and Morris, mixes two colors of stone "to achieve the mottled effect of the existing roof, which was beautiful but had outlived its lifespan." To avoid interrupting the Powerhouse's open plan, Bruner/Cott situated the restrooms in an understated addition constructed from board-formed concrete. "We find that additions like this are often necessary to support existing buildings without undermining their spatial qualities," observed Forney and Morris. To foreground the steam plant itself, "we chose to make the addition appear like a garden wall—a 'non-building,'" they said. "It is simply two offset concrete walls that conceal the door to the terrace." The contractor built the formwork from rough-hewn lumber to achieve a patinated look, and tinted the concrete to match the existing water table banding. The addition's gutters are designed to pour water down the face of the wall and hasten the appearance of age. Like Bruner/Cott's sensitive renovation, the steam plant's new moniker—the Powerhouse—effectively gestures at both the history of the building and its new incarnation as a campus activities hub. "Amherst College chose the name both to remind students of the building's industrial past, and to recognize its place in 21st-century student life," said Forney and Morris. Once responsible for producing heat, today the structure generates something less material, but equally important: student engagement.
Posts tagged with "brick":
Brick and metal transform a tired office block into a residential building worthy of its site.Located on a slice of land adjacent to the Potomac River in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, the 1984 Sheet Metal Workers Union National Pension Fund building failed to live up to the site's potential. "I've used this in a couple of lectures," said Shalom Baranes Associates principal Patrick Burkhart. "I show 'before' photos and ask the audience, 'What is this building?' The answers include: 'It looks like an urban jail.'" When the property came on the market, Maryland-based developer EYA seized the opportunity to transform the waterfront eyesore into a contemporary condominium complex. Clad in brick and metal paneling, with high performance glazing emphasizing views along the Potomac, the Oronoco balances a sleek urban aesthetic with sensitivity to Old Town's historic fabric. Because rowhouses dominate Old Town's residential real estate market, "we thought there was a pent-up demand for one-level living for empty nesters," said EYA senior vice president Brian AJ Jackson. The developers took a "less is more" approach to the conversion, opting for 60 large units over the 110 allowed by the zoning code. They kept the old office building's stepped profile, creating penthouses on multiple levels, but carved out the center of the structure to make way for a courtyard. "The courtyard really gives the project a heart and soul," said Burkhart. "It creates something that's not inward looking, but outward." The Sheet Metal Workers Union building was "originally designed with fairly innovative sustainable ideas, for an office building," said Burkhart—including the stepped terraces, on top of which were solar collectors. "But a lot of it didn't work well." One major deficit was the structure's reduced window openings. During renovation, Shalom Baranes Associates focused on maximizing daylighting and views without sacrificing thermal or acoustic performance, selecting a variety of high performance products from Peerless for the building's glazed areas. Given the Oronoco's location along the flight path to and from Reagan National Airport, "the acoustic glazing is amazing," observed Choptank Communications' Brent Burkhardt. "You hear very little from inside the building, yet you have a neat view of the planes." The building's brick cavity wall offers additional benefits in terms of energy efficiency. "It's our theme to blend in," said Burkhart. "We decided to work with the brick aesthetic" that prevails among Old Town's older residences. The architects broke the building into townhouse-scale bays, wrapping every other bay in metal panels from Alcoa/Reynobond. "It alternates between brick and metal as you go up the steps: brick, then metal and glass, then another brick element. That helps pull you up the height of the building," explained Burkhart. The LEED Silver Oronoco achieves the performance aspirations of its predecessor without neglecting the building's visual appeal—and without taking unnecessary risks. Obtaining LEED certification "is always a little more challenging for residential designs," said Burkhart. "Many of the points are developed simply through a careful selection of materials, instead of choosing more exotic measures."
San Antonio firm transforms vacant industrial building into sunlit workspace.Dissatisfied with their two-story office, San Antonio architecture practice Overland Partners recently went looking for a new home. They found it in an unexpected place: a long-vacant plumbing supply warehouse within the city's burgeoning arts district. The 1918 Hughes Plumbing Warehouse offered the firm exactly what they wanted—a large open floor plan—in an architecturally refined package. The timber-framed, brick-clad building "is simple," said project architect Patrick Winn, "but it's really elegant and beautiful when you're able to look at it." The problem was that years of disuse had left their mark. "When we first viewed it, it was really far gone," recalled Winn. The original windows had been broken up, and the roof had flooded. Undaunted, the architects took on an extensive renovation project, with the result that today the former plumbing distribution center is a boon not just to Overland, but to the neighborhood as a whole. Prior to renovation, Hughes Warehouse was entirely encased in a double-width brick wall, except for a few garage door openings and two levels of clerestory windows. While the clerestories, approximately 16-20 inches and 20-25 inches in width, provided a good dose of daylight to the interior, they did not provide views out, nor did they facilitate the transition from parking lot to studio. "At Overland we really enjoy blurring the line between the outdoor, natural realm and the indoor, built realm," said Winn. "Right from the get-go we said: we have to cut a courtyard into the building and elongate that entry sequence." Overland carved out approximately 2,000 square feet of space for the new courtyard, which is faced with a custom glass and steel curtain wall. The transparent opening floods the office interior with light and frames views for the occupants. It has also become a de facto community space. "What's been nice is that runners' groups and cycling groups are starting to use our courtyard as a hub for activity," said Winn, who notes that live music and other events at a neighboring coffee shop are an additional draw. "It's brought a lot of life and energy into our space from the courtyard." To secure the courtyard after hours, the architects designed custom steel gates to replace the original, graffiti-covered garage doors. To tie-in to the warehouse's arts-district location, and to pay homage to the graffiti, Overland looked to Jackson Pollock for inspiration. They pixelated photographs on Photoshop before transferring the file to AutoCAD and sending the pattern on to Rivercity Industries, who laser-cut the design into the doors. The doors themselves were fabricated by Overland Workshop. "From the exterior, especially when the lights are on, when you drive by, there's almost a twinkling effect," said Winn of the perforated gates. "They're really neat." The architects punched additional windows into the remaining brick facade. "We decided to honor the old brick building," said Winn. "Any new insertion is done with steel and glass." To mitigate solar gain, the new windows are extruded about a foot on the east side of the building, and about two feet on the west. The clerestories and courtyard curtain wall are equipped with automated shades. Though the original steel frames around the clerestory windows would only accept 1/4-inch laminated safety glass, the new windows feature one-inch-thick high performance glass. Additional sustainability measures include a complete board insulation system over the roof. "We loved having brick on the interior, so what we couldn't do there in terms of insulation, we made up for on the roof," explained Winn. "We over-insulated it." A rooftop solar setup offsets about 60 percent of the office's energy consumption. In addition, the architects re-used original materials wherever possible. They built the interior stairs out of old joists, and the contractor saw-cut discarded concrete into pavers for the abutting alley. Even the brittle roof decking found a second life as board forms for the building's cast-in-place concrete elements. The Hughes Warehouse building has exceeded the architects' expectations in terms of bringing the office back together, said Winn. "It's done wonders for us from the standpoint of office culture. People seem to really love working here—it's not a place that's a drag to work in, it's very comfortable." He noted that in less than two years the firm has grown from just over 40 members to about 70, and recalled several recent events, including art shows and a courtyard holiday party, held in the renovated space. "I have to say that Overland's been elevated to a whole other level."
LEED Platinum renovation reconnects the Health Services Building to the campus core.Early in their renovation of the Arizona State University Health Services Building, Lake|Flato Architects, working with orcutt | winslow, decided to scrap the university’s initial concept in favor of a plan that would reengage the campus’s historic pedestrian corridor, the Palm Walk. Instead of building an addition to the north side of the existing facility, which included a serviceable two-story building constructed in the 1950s and another structure Lake|Flato partner Andrew Herdeg described as "a rambling one-story rabbit warren of spaces," the architects elected to demolish the one-story wing and build a two-story addition in its place. "This initial idea that we need to look at the basic concept before we start the design, and think about it from the campus design perspective, changed everything," said Herdeg. It allowed the design team to reduce the program by about 12 percent and reduce the footprint by 20 percent, as well as to preserve 5,000 square feet of green space for programs and stormwater mitigation. But it also presented a challenge. The renovated building’s primary identity would be on the east facade of the building, where the desert sun had the potential to undo efficiencies gained elsewhere. Lake|Flato and orcutt | winslow responded with a building envelope that provides a strong visual connection to the Palm Walk while reducing solar gain to the absolute minimum. The architects wrapped the south and west sides of the addition, where the clinics are located, in a tight brick over rigid fiberglass insulation. "The brick picks up on some surrounding historic buildings, and is also a traditional material for the campus," said Herdeg. The designers articulated the east side of the building with a series of bays and adjacent pocket gardens. The bays are oriented to the south and southeast, rather than due east, with the glazing on their south facets. "Instead of thinking about engaging the campus in a frontal way, we always thought of approaching this building on the diagonal," explained Herdeg. "Thinking about how the pedestrian perceives it helped us strategize about solar assets and thermal loads." The unglazed portions of the bays are clad in a metal skin, behind which an inch and a half of rigid insulation serves to eliminate thermal bridging. The articulated facade is designed to self-shade as the sun rises. "We worked on a series of pretty rudimentary daylighting studies that allowed us to look at the spacing of the bays," said Herdeg. "We did this balancing act between creating little pocket gardens, and using the adjacent bays to self-shade the glazing on the bays next to them." The design team installed corrugated metal overhangs over the bay windows to provide additional protection from direct sunlight. A series of recycled wood pulp and plastic screens from Trex, installed over the bay windows and over some of the glazing on the south and west sides of the building, constitute a final layer of defense against the Phoenix sun. "The Trex louver system allowed the solar thermal to be picked up on the lattice rather than the building skin; it was another barrier to the thermal load," said Herdeg. "The lattice also supports vines that are going to grow up, so these pocket gardens get surrounded by lush vine-covered walls." Likewise, on the new building’s two other facades, "the thought was that each of the little patient rooms would not be looking out at parking, but at a green screen," he explained. Lake|Flato and orcutt | winslow’s LEED Platinum intervention, which included replacing all the single-pane windows in the 1950s building with low-E insulated glass, will surely save ASU substantial sums on its energy bills. More importantly—thanks to the designers’ decision to demolish the inefficient one-story wing—it weaves the Health Services Building back into the campus fabric. "Now the building really addresses the campus," said Herdeg. "Before it had this very disjointed identity. Now we’ve created a cohesive identity with a single entrance. It’s a much better solution."
An aluminum rain screen and locally-sourced brick articulate a two-part program.The Brook, developed by Common Ground and designed by Alexander Gorlin Architects, is part of a new wave of affordable housing communities popping up all over the United States. Unlike the public housing projects of the mid-twentieth century, which focused exclusively on housing and tended to suffer from a lack of routine maintenance, The Brook, located in the Bronx, combines apartments and support services under one roof. This duality is manifested in the envelope’s contrasting material palette—dark grey brick for the residential spaces, raw aluminum over the community facilities. “The idea of the exterior was to symbolize, as well as reflect, the internal program of Common Ground as supportive housing,” said Alexander Gorlin. “It’s inspired in part by Le Corbusier and his idea of expressing the program on the facade, and expressing the public functions as a means of interrupting a repetitive facade." The Brook’s communal areas, which are clustered at the corner of the 92,000-square-foot, six-story building, are marked on the exterior by ES Tolga Dry Seal System aluminum panels from Allied Metal. In addition to articulating the change in program, the metal facade “represents coming together, creating a landmark for the neighborhood as well,” said Gorlin, who noted that Common Ground “liked from the beginning marking the corner as a special symbolic place.” The metal-clad corner also functions “urbanistically, to break the building into three parts, break down its scale,” he explained. A series of inset terraces interrupt the grey aluminum walls with splashes of red. “At one level it’s a bright color to be cheerful and optimistic,” said Gorlin. “In China, red is a symbol of good luck. It also symbolizes the heart of the program and the community.” The Brook’s 190 studio apartments are distributed to either side of the community facilities, along wings punctuated with square and rectangular windows. “We decided to vary the window placement so it would create a more lively asymmetrical pattern. It’s not just a simple grid,” said Gorlin. The designers clad the housing areas in locally sourced dark grey brick. “Brick is a very noble, ancient material,” observed Gorlin. As a good insulator, it also contributes to the building’s LEED Silver status. Other sustainability strategies include a green roof, a special boiler system, building management technology that turns off the lights when a room is not in use, and the use of recycled and non-offgassing materials. The Brook was erected on a vacant lot in a neighborhood once known for pervasive blight. Early in the design process, said Gorlin, the architects and developers discussed installing bars over the lower windows. “It was determined very consciously not to do it, even though there’s glass on the corner,” he explained. “We decided not to put bars up or make it look in any way prison-like. In fact, by not doing so it’s been maintained in perfect shape. People in the neighborhood think it’s a high-end condo.” Gorlin calls Common Ground “a miraculous kind of client in terms of what they do and the manner in which they deal with the community.” The Brook, he said, represents a new approach not just to affordable housing, but to homelessness. “To actually build permanent housing for homeless people” is a unique opportunity, he said. “It’s not just a shelter, but a place to start over in life.”