When Reader & Swartz Architects decided to find new digs for its eight-person staff, it wanted a building that could be a catalyst for redevelopment in an overlooked area of Winchester, Va. This late 1890s building fit the bill perfectly. Located in a struggling neighborhood, the structure had housed various commercial enterprises, among them a meat market (the source of the building's name). “We wanted to respect the history but infuse it with some creativity,” says principal Beth Reader, AIA.

The firm, which bought the building with the graphic design firm Water Street Design, gutted the structure and created a couple of two-story offices—2,722 square feet for the architects and 2,107 square feet for the graphic artists. They inserted walls of wood and laminated glass to create reception areas and conference rooms on the first level. And on the second level, they carved out a loftlike space with exposed elements such as brick walls, rafters, and structural steel. Light penetrates the interior through cracked-glass floors that are lit from above by clerestory windows and a skylight. Existing upper windows remain intact, but new storefront windows and paint unify the exterior. The two firms share 1,766 square feet of common space in a three-story addition at the rear of the building; it contains a conference room, lounge, kitchen, and rooftop deck.

“The building is located in an area [city officials] hope will transition,” Reader says. “With any luck, City Meat will help spur that change.”