Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Find and design a building in the urban core for a married couple to house each of their own companies. She owns a prominent marketing and design firm, Reagan Marketing + Design and her husband owns Engine Industrial Design, a vintage boat and engine company with a worldwide clientele.
They purchased a cluster of buildings in an urban historic district. The early to mid 20th century building complex included three distinct buildings – a gas station, a creamery, and a print shop - that were added on to and combined over the years. When purchased, much of the historic character had been removed or concealed by insensitive alterations. An addition behind the gas station building was collapsing and some of the walls of the rear additions were separating.
The Guiding Principles
- As the building was in a historic district the team decided to utilize state and federal historic tax credits which meant that the interior and exterior of the project had to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for Historic Rehabilitation.
- The design approach taken was to integrate modern architecture and furnishings juxtaposed against historic character-defining features already existing in the complex.
- The design was inspired and meant to enhance the culture of the marketing firm – a social, integrated, fun, collaborative, hardworking and open environment.
- Provide for as much daylight and transparency in the building and as allowed by the historic guidelines.
- Engage the rear garden space with the interior.
All of the original interior and exterior windows were uncovered, repaired, and where missing, replaced. All of the existing overhead doors that were no longer needed were converted to full glass and where allowed, new windows were added. Some of the interior windows were cut down to create new entryways. The original etched black glass panels on the front façade were missing, so using historic photos as a guide; the pattern was replicated and replaced on the front. New modern lighting was added throughout. In the main central social space a stair was added to the mezzanine that reused the floor joists from the original mezzanine. The design of the stair is intentionally porous to allow the vistas of the space to be seen unimpeded. Multiple meeting spaces, both formal and informal, were created as well as an open office that encourages collaboration. Visibility and access to the new garden was facilitated through several glass doors and by converting a former loading dock to a covered porch.
The greatest challenge for the entire project was to create a new and modern office environment while adhering to the historic guidelines. Every decision was vetted through the process of historic preservation, which ultimately led to the client receiving Federal and State Historic Preservation tax credits as well as a space that reflected their modern sensibility while respecting the historic features of the complex.