Adaptive Reuse / Grand
So many urban loft conversions all but obliterate the building's sense of history. This one celebrates it as a ruin, rough edges and all. Built circa 1890, this part of the historic mill complex had been slowly disintegrating when a fire burned the roof off, leaving only a masonry-and-steel shell. In an effort that David Benn, AIA, likens to putting a ship in a bottle, the design team inserted a ground-level concrete plinth that houses office space. Above are two floors of two-level loft units that align with the existing double-height arched windows. Light filters into the commercial core through pyramid skylights cut into a second-story open-air courtyard. Lit at night, they glow upward like jewels.
The architects opened another three-story light well that exposes a basement-level stream. “We cut an opening into the stream, so theoretically you could be sending a fishing line down,” Benn explains, “but it looks more like the sewers of Paris, with a cobbled bottom.” To make living there even more fun, a hike-and-bike greenway also runs through the renovated building.
The jury applauded the firm for preserving a sense of the original shell. “These buildings are being demolished so fast, and to keep this is great,” said one judge.