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Project Profiles: Education

Gateway Arch Museum, St. Louis

The Gateway Arch Museum occupies a renovated underground space built concurrently with the Arch with a 47,000-square-foot expansion to the west and a new entrance facing the Old Courthouse, site of the landmark 1857 trial of the slave Dred Scott.

Retrofit Team

Architects: Cooper Robertson, New York; James Carpenter Design Associates, New York; and Trivers Associates Architects, St. Louis
Landscape Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Exhibition Design: Haley Sharpe Design Ltd. of London and Toronto


Stainless Steel in Entrance: Seele
Glass in Entrance: Sedak
Vegetated Roof Waterproofing Membrane: Laurenco Waterproofing
Vegetated Roof Asphaltic Protection Board: WR Meadows
XPS Rigid Insulation: Dow
Geo-composite Drainage Mat: Versicell
Geofoam Fill: Insulgrade XV
Filter Fabric: Mirafi
Expansion Atrium Tube LED Lighting and Renovation Tram Lobby LED Lighting: Nanometer
Renovation LED Downlights: USAI Lighting
Expansion Canopy LED Downlights and Trough LED Lighting: Electrix
Toilets and Urinals: American Standard
Flushometers: Sloan
Infrared Faucets: Chicago Faucets
Kitchen Faucets and Barrier-free Drinking Fountain: Elkay

The underground museum expands toward downtown and opens onto a redesigned public square that now spans over a sunken interstate highway.

The Retrofit

Located at the base of Eero Saarinen’s iconic Arch, within a National Park, the underground museum explores seminal events in American history, such as President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark’s exploration of North America in 1804, and the role of St. Louis in the settlement of the American West. The museum had suffered from a lack of visibility and needed a more relevant and contemporary narrative.

The new museum occupies a renovated underground space built concurrently with the Arch with a 47,000-square-foot expansion to the west and a new entrance facing the Old Courthouse, site of the landmark 1857 trial of the slave Dred Scott. The majority of the interior of the existing space was reconfigured into new galleries, public amenities and museum staff offices. The original architectural elements of the existing public spaces were preserved, and their distinctive character highlighted with new lighting and other discrete interventions. The addition houses a new public lobby that also serves as a kind of visitor center for the entire park, as well as a great hall with monumental and animated elements that introduce the visitor to major themes to be explored in the galleries.

The new circular stainless-steel and glass entrance refers to the Arch in its materiality and form. It is an arc laid onto the landscape and precisely inserted into the topography, allowing visitors to enter the building through the landscape rather than descending underground. As one enters, the luminous great hall is revealed with views deep into the underground museum’s monumentally scaled exhibits, elevating and enlivening the visitor experience while drawing one in.
A giant map of North America floats below the entry hall. Visitors and school groups can land there and walk the path of Lewis and Clark or follow the trails of pioneers migrating west. The map also is designed as a unique space for special events. Beneath the map is a new Education Center that supports the park’s programs, which previously had no dedicated space.

One moves down through the hall among screens projecting life-sized videos of wagon trains journeying west across an open and rugged landscape with bison and other natural features of the frontier before entering the galleries.

The linear exhibition offers various ways to navigate multiple stories on single and successive visits and merges seamlessly with the trip up the Arch.

The museum is fully accessible for all ages and all abilities. The design is based on Universal Design standards that exceed the legal requirements of the American with Disabilities Act and the federal-mandated Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standard.

This project is a key component of the larger plan to connect downtown St. Louis with the park and the Mississippi Riverfront; the underground museum expands toward downtown and opens onto a redesigned public square that now spans over a sunken interstate highway. The new museum and Old Courthouse create an ensemble of buildings of national significance that define a transformed public open space in downtown St. Louis. Taken together with the Arch, this will become a new destination for those interested in architecture and history, contribute to the quality of urban life for residents and drive economic revitalization.

This project is a result of an international competition, “Framing a Modern Masterpiece: The City + The Arch + The River”, which was organized by the non-profit Gateway Arch Park Foundation. The $96 million museum is the cultural centerpiece of the overall $380 million comprehensive renewal of the Gateway Arch National Park.

Editor’s Note: In early 2019, the Gateway Arch Park Foundation announced the Visitor Center and Museum at the Gateway Arch had been awarded LEED Gold in recognition of sustainable site development, water savings and building materials selection. The Visitor Center and Museum join the exclusive ranks of only 10 other LEED-certified sites in the National Park Service and 185 LEED projects in St. Louis.

First Photo: Cooper Robertson
Second Photo: Nic Lehoux

Lino Tagliapietra Glass Studio, Seattle

The entry of the Lino Tagliapietra Glass Studio is defined by a large wood and steel door that incorporates a modest illuminated cut-steel sign announcing the venue.

Retrofit Team

Architect, Interior Designer and Lighting Designer: Graham Baba Architects, Seattle
Structural Engineer: Degenkolb Engineers, Seattle
Design-build Mechanical Engineer: Premier Mechanical, Bothell, Wash.
Design-build Electrical Engineer: Pinnacle Electric, Redmond, Wash., (206) 546-1332
General Contractor: Dovetail, Seattle


The entry is defined by a large wood and steel door that incorporates a modest illuminated cut-steel sign announcing the venue. Inside, the entry opens onto a sloping interior ramp that parallels the studio, which is essentially one large, 6,100-square-foot space. The brick interior has been painted matte gray while floors are made with a subtly bleached white oak. Overhead, a 16-foot-wide by 45-foot-long light monitor floats above the center of the space. Translucent clerestory glazing brings daylight into the space. The underside of the monitor features a curved soffit that softly shapes the daylight that fills the space. The client refers to the light-filled space created by the monitor as the cube. The cube serves as an illuminated volume in which to hang large collections of glass pieces or to feature tall works. Indirect light sources inset into the monitor provide dramatic lighting in the evening. Custom-designed Europly cabinetry and hot-rolled steel and Europly furniture fit out the spaces. The conference table is built from fir beams reclaimed from the building construction. Elemental steel display stands of various heights and steel wall and ceiling mounts support the art.

Wood and Steel Door and Cut-steel Sign: Custom by Dovetail
Paint: Sherwin-Williams
White-oak Floors: Garrison Collection
Light-monitor and Clerestory Glazing: Arcadia Inc.
Electric Lighting: EcoSense Lighting

The studio is dedicated to the display of Lino Tagliapietra’s glass art.

The Retrofit

Located in a downtown Seattle neighborhood, the studio is dedicated to the display of Lino Tagliapietra’s glass art. Tagliapietra’s work explores the limits of glass—its form, texture and color. In response to the drama of his work, the space itself becomes an exercise in restraint, a quiet armature and environment in which art becomes the focal point.
Most recently serving as home to an auction company, the studio occupies a 1917, 1-story, masonry and heavy-timber-framed warehouse building, which presents a quiet presence to its urban setting. Support spaces, including a glass-fronted office and conference room, restrooms, kitchenette and storage, round out the functions on the main floor.

Photos: Graham Baba Architects

King University, Bristol, Tenn.

King University’s Oval is an iconic walkway and community space that occupies the heart of the school’s main campus.

Retrofit Team

Landscaping Contractor: Poor Boy Lawncare & Landscaping, Johnson City, Tenn.
General Contractor: BurWil Construction Co., Bristol


More than 55,000 wire-cut red clay brick pavers were used in the restoration of King University’s Oval, an iconic walkway and community space that occupies the heart of the school’s main campus. The entrances to King’s Chapel, Parks Hall and the E.W. King Library were included as part of the project.

The brick pavers played a key role in maintaining the 19th-century Georgian style of the Oval, which reflects the architectural theme of King University’s campus. The walkway, which was first paved with bricks in 1962, had shifted and settled from decades of foot traffic and weathering, creating the need for repair and refurbishment.

“Over time, the Oval had deteriorated from long-term use and weather,” says Adam Dennison, owner of Poor Boy Lawncare & Landscaping. “King University wanted the clay brick pavers to not only be durable, but also match the feel of the campus and its surrounding buildings … .”

Brick Paver Manufacturer: General Shale

More than 55,000 wire-cut red clay brick pavers were used in the restoration of King University’s Oval.

The Retrofit

General Shale and Poor Boy Lawncare & Landscaping received an honorable mention in the 2017 Hardscape North America Awards for this restoration project. (Hardscape North America is a New Albany, Ind.-based Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute event.)

Restoration of King University’s Oval took place during a three-month period in the summer of 2015. The new surface does not incorporate the use of mortar, which makes the pathway durable and easy to maintain.

Photos: General Shale

Ouray School, Ouray, Colo.

Renovations at Ouray School includes the installation of a standing-seam metal roof system with a snow guard system to ensure the safety of students, faculty and visitors.

Retrofit Team

Architect: RTA Architects, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Roofing Contractor: Douglass Colony Group Inc., Commerce City, Colo.


The historic school’s latest renovation included installation of a new standing-seam metal roof system with a snow guard system to ensure the safety of students, faculty and visitors.

Douglass Colony installed 18,000 square feet of standing-seam metal roofing. The snow guard system selected for the school is ColorGard with a Charcoal Grey insert to match the Una-Clad UC-6, a double-lock standing-seam panel. Approximately 1,600 lineal feet of ColorGard was installed. Depending on the length of the standing-seam metal panel, some sections required two or three rows of ColorGard.

“We wanted a continuous snow guard system, instead of individual plastic pieces that are screwed down through the roof,” says Joel Cox, AIA, of RTA Architects. “The ColorGard is attached without penetrating the roof … . There is pedestrian traffic on three sides of the building, so preventing snow and ice from sliding off the roof was obviously important. … We have one row about 1-foot up from the eave, a second row about a quarter way up the roof and another row about midway up the roof, spaced in line with S-5! suggestions.”

Snow Guard Manufacturer: S-5!
Standing-seam Metal Roofing Manufacturer: Firestone Building Products Co.

The Retrofit

The original school, which was built in 1883 when the school district was founded, was destroyed by fire in 1936. A new facility then was constructed adjacent to the original site. Additions were made to the school in the 1970s, ’90s and in 2003. After a full assessment in 2014, the existing facilities were found to be structurally safe and worthy of a thorough renovation, including the addition of a standing-seam metal roof that covered the entire building, including the additions.

The project was a two-phase renovation that involved improvements to the 1936 structure. The redesigned facility includes 21st century learning spaces to support modern curriculum delivery and an emphasis on safety for all students and staff. The renovation included south and southeast vestibule additions, security upgrades, new entry steps and windows, HVAC system upgrades, a new fire-alarm system to meet current codes and the addition of a full-building sprinkler system.
Photos in S-5 folder

Photo: S-5!

Memorial Student Union, DePauw University, Greencastle, Ind.

Ultra Series doors and Majesta windows are key to meeting the campus aesthetics and sustainability goals within the student union’s renovation.

Retrofit Team

Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP, New York
General Contractor: Turner Construction Co., Indianapolis
Strategic Design Construction: Schmidt Associates, Indianapolis
Exterior Contractor: JC Ripberger Construction Corp., Zionsville, Ind.
Window Distributor: Kenny Glass Inc., Columbus, Ind.


Designed in the Georgian style, popular between 1720 and 1830, the Memorial Student Union and several other campus buildings feature steep-angled slate roofs with copper accents, hand-molded red brick, Indiana limestone and painted trim. Ultra Series doors and Majesta windows were key to meeting the campus aesthetics and sustainability goals within the student union’s renovation. These same historically appropriate products were installed in a newly constructed dining hall, Hoover Hall, which was built next to the student union. The windows are very large so activity within the buildings is visible and transparent from the surrounding quad and serves to draw students into the buildings.

A custom brickmould was created by the window manufacturer for the student union and Hoover Hall. The historic building and new building also have the same PDLs, glass and finish.

Door and Window Manufacturer: Kolbe Windows & Doors

Photo: Daniel Showalter Photography

Grand Staircase, Natural History Building, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Renovations at the Natural History Building includes restoration of its grand staircase.

Retrofit Team

Architect: LCM Architects, Chicago
Richard Lehner, AIA, LEED AP, partner
Jonathan Lundeen, AIA, LEEP AP, project manager
Alec Thornton, AIA, project architect
Todd Douglas, AIA, LEED AP, project architect
Ewa Kolacz, interior designer
MEP/FP Engineer and Technology Consultant: IMEG, Chicago
General Contractor: Barton Malow, Chicago
Historic Preservation Consultant: Harboe Architects PC, Chicago
Stair Fabricator: Heritage Restoration & Design Studio, Peoria, Ill.


The stairs were custom-designed and -fabricated.
Varnish: 275 VOC Premium Clear Conversion Varnish from Gemini Coatings
Wood: solid white oak, quarter sawn
Railing: The steel and glass guardrail extensions were custom-built to comply with code requirements; the glass was chosen to minimize obstructing the original woodwork.
Lounge Chairs: Krefeld by Mies Van der Rohe and Risom by Jens Risom, Knoll
Table: Risom Child’s Amoeba by Jens Risom, Knoll
Lighting: Sequence pendant from Visa Lighting

The Retrofit

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Natural History Building has undergone three building additions since it was built in 1894. The additions created a complex of distinct structural systems and fragmented spaces. Driven by a need to stabilize the structure, there was an opportunity to unify the interior and modernize the building while reviving a historic gem during the $70 million renovation that took place between 2014 and 2017.

Among the beautiful renovations is restoration of the building’s grand staircase. The original 1894 structure featured an intricate wood ceiling and symmetrical, ornate stairs from the first through fourth floors. In the 1950s, the north stair was removed to allow the installation of mezzanines and an office. The remaining south stair, though still functional, had suffered in appearance over time.

Discovering the original condition and existence of both stairs was like an archaeological dig. After sifting through historical documents and peeling away layers of physical alterations, the LCM Architects’ design team presented the idea of returning the original function of the grand staircase by using historic photographs as reference to restore the existing stair and duplicate the detailed design of the wood to reconstruct its lost companion.

Harboe Associates detailed the historic decorative pattern, devised and detailed the steel under-structure, and coordinated assembly. Harboe Associates also detailed the restoration of the wood ceilings and other historic details.
Heritage Restoration & Design Studio provided superb craftsmanship in restoring the existing stair and producing its match. Each element of the existing staircase was photographed, cataloged and drawn for fabrication.

The resulting stairs are a dramatic overall statement. Entering the building from the north, visitors experience an elegant space where all architectural elements lead to the symmetrical stair. The stains and pattern of the bamboo flooring echo the strong lines of the original dark wood coffered ceiling, which was uncovered during demolition, cleaned and restored.

An unexpected and delightful surprise awaits visitors as they progress to the second level. The intricately carved wooden stairs come alive against a field of light-colored walls and an open, brightly illuminated well. Multiple collaborative zones, defined by different colors and patterns of bamboo flooring, are furnished with classic modern pieces in nature-inspired colors and fabrics with occasional accents of red.

The entire Natural History Building project received a 2018 Heritage Award from the Preservation and Conservation Association, Champaign, Ill.

Photos: Scott McDonald, Gray City Studios

Alexander II Magnet School, Macon, Ga.

A standing-seam metal roof is installed on the historic Alexander II Magnet School.

Retrofit Team

Architect: Edifice Consulting, Byron, Ga., (478) 954-3971
Roofing Contractor: Pittman Waller Roofing, Macon


Multiple problems, including an aging structure and a failing asphalt roof, led Bibb County Schools representatives to recover the roof of historic Alexander II Magnet School with the 138T symmetrical standing-seam metal roof.

“During an assessment, we discovered that the asphalt shingles were installed with no ventilation and heavy insulation,” says Jody Usry, president of Edifice Consulting. “It was designed for metal so with no ventilation, the shingles were burning up. And there was so much expansion and contraction that the nails were backing out in spots. It was decided that the best thing to do was retrofit with metal.”

The 138T standing-seam system allows metal roofing to be installed directly over asphalt shingles without an underlayment and without tear-off. The system is designed around the patented clip paired with the company’s 138T symmetrical standing-seam panel. Measuring 1 3/8-inches tall, the 138T is a two-piece mechanically seamed metal roof system.

A 3/4-inch airspace combined with vented eave and ridge material provide uninterrupted airflow between the two roofs, known as “above sheathing ventilation,” or ASV. Testing at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., demonstrates a free-flowing airspace between a metal roof and shingles can reduce heat transfer by 30 to 50 percent.

Usry notes there were flat roofing areas with an internal gutter that were recovered with new decking and sloped to allow water to flow to an external gutter. Modified bitumen was applied over existing modified bitumen at low-slope areas after thermal scans were done to identify wet insulation. All internal gutters were replaced.

Pittman Waller Roofing installed the modified bitumen and 27,500 square feet of the 138T 24-gauge panels in PVDF Ash Gray. The panels were formed at the McElroy Metal manufacturing facility in Peachtree City, Ga. Because some spots of the decking were sagging, the roofers had to “shim” the roofing with 18-gauge framing.

Standing-seam Metal Roof System Manufacturer: McElroy Metal
Modified Bitumen Manufacturer: Johns Manville

The Retrofit

Alexander II Magnet School was completed in 1902. Several significant additions through the years have brought the entire facility up to 41,650 square feet. In June 2000, the school was named to the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C.

Photos: McElroy Metal

John Stewart Memorial Library, Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pa.

The limestone façade at Wilson College brings together the old and new.

Retrofit Team

Architect: Murray Associates Architects PC, Harrisburg, Pa.
Glazing Contractor: Harrisburg Glass, Shiremanstown, Pa.
General Contractor: Mowery, Mechanicsburg, Pa.


Featured on this project are the YCW 750 OG curtainwall, YES 45 TU storefront, medium-stile swing doors and Therma-Shade sunshades.

Curtainwall, Storefront, Swing Doors and Sunshade Manufacturer: YKK AP

The Retrofit

As part of a $12 million rehab of the existing 1925 library at Wilson College, an outdated addition was razed and replaced. The limestone façade brings together the old and new.

Photo: Courtesy of YKK AP

Santa Rita Union School District, Salinas, Calif.

Solar power systems and SmartStorage energy-storage systems provide up to seven hours of power at each school during a grid outage.

Retrofit Team

Consultant: EcoMotion, Los Angeles
Engineer: Sharp Electronics Corp., Montvale, N.J., and Black & Veatch, Overland Park, Kan.
Design-build Contractor: MBL-energy, San Jose, Calif.
Financier: Generate Capital, San Francisco


Solar power systems and SmartStorage energy-storage systems have been installed at six sites within the Santa Rita Union School District (SRUSD). The systems will provide up to seven hours of power at each school during a grid outage and will offset the school’s energy and demand usage, resulting in substantial savings on its utility bills. These multi-campus systems will enable the schools to support the local Salinas community as Powered Emergency Response Centers in the event of disasters that cause prolonged outages.

The intelligent energy-storage solution pairs with solar PV systems to work synergistically, reducing utility costs by pulling power from the SmartStorage batteries rather than from the utility at the times of highest demand, an operation that is well suited for facilities where utility bills are often one of the highest expenses. In the case of a grid outage, software will enable the transition to microgrid operation with only modest disruption to school operations. This capability helps shield the district from grid outages caused by rolling blackouts, brownouts, or severe weather events and minimizes disruptions to the school day for students, parents and faculty.

In total, the SRUSD systems include 1 megawatt of solar PV that is integrated with 1.1 MWh of SmartStorage behind-the-meter energy storage systems.

Energy Storage System Manufacturer: Sharp Electronics Corp.

The Retrofit

SRUSD recently hosted a ribbon-cutting at one of its sites facilitated by its consultant, EcoMotion. EcoMotion envisioned the project as a means of getting SRUSD the resiliency that it sought by combining batteries with ubiquitous solar power.
“California school districts face extremely challenging budgeting situations and any reduction in operational expenses can directly translate into money for teachers, books or supplies,” says Dr. Shelly Morr, SRUSD’s superintendent. “It is also important for our community that schools aren’t impacted by events, such as power outages, as this disrupts not just the school day, but parents having to leave work early or scramble to make other arrangements for their children. We’re excited to see these clean energy systems implemented on our school campuses.”

Photo: Sharp Electronics Corp.

Alfred University’s New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred, N.Y.

The addition to the 1952 McMahon Engineering Building is transformed into a work of art with a theme reflective of the ceramics art and science curriculum.

Retrofit Team

Architect: NBBJ Architecture, Boston
Mason: King Brothers Construction, North Java, N.Y., (585) 535-7526


NBBJ Architecture was faced with a design challenge at Alfred University’s New York State College of Ceramics (NYSCC). A creative concept helped transform an addition to the 1952 McMahon Engineering Building into a work of art with a theme reflective of the ceramics art and science curriculum.

The building would hold the NYSCC’s sensitive imaging equipment used in creating ceramic artwork and lab testing engineered ceramics. But the design team at NBBJ envisioned a broader purpose for this space. “Our goal was to give some character to what could have been a simple concrete box,” says William Voulgaris, AIA, NBBJ principal and architect. “In trying to be relevant to the ceramic school, we wanted to use an unconventional, forward-thinking material in the design.”

The college originally wanted the building to be tiled with actual ceramics, which was impractical because the tiles would not hold up to the weather or normal wear and tear. Instead, NBBJ Architecture specified glazed block, which has the advantages of masonry but with the illusion of ceramic tile. The architects vertically placed Astra-Glaze SW+ in a random pattern. When scored down the center, the product looks like ceramic material. Bold colors add to the illusion.

The units are pre-faced architectural concrete masonry blocks featuring a thermoset glazing compound permanently molded on one or more faces. This exterior is cured and heat-treated to create an impervious surface that repels water and resists mold, is easy to clean and installs in one step. It also is resistant to graffiti and has a four-hour fire rating.

“At first, we were a little concerned about how the glaze facing on the blocks would weather in New York’s extreme environment,” Voulgaris adds. “However, Echelon representatives showed us some good examples of past performance on other building façades and came up with solutions to help make it easier for the masons to lay the block as designed.” The product was used for the entire outer face of the building and for common areas on interior walls.

Glazed Block Manufacturer: Echelon Masonry

Photos: Echelon Masonry

Oakdale Joint Unified School District, Oakdale, Calif.

School district representatives for at Cloverland Elementary and Fair Oaks Elementary opted to convert unused multipurpose rooms into library/media centers.

Retrofit Team

Construction Management: Oakdale Joint Unified School District
Dan Casey, director of Maintenance and Operations
Architect: Pratt Architecture, Modesto, Calif.
Alisa Cota
Interior Design: Lionakis, Sacramento, Calif.
Bianca Dyke
General Contractor: ACME Construction Co. Inc., Modesto
Mike Mastagni


The following materials were used in Fair Oaks and Cloverland elementary schools’ library/media centers:
Lighting: Finelite (recessed linear lighting); Molto Luce (pendant lighting at Fair Oaks); Philips Lightolier (can lighting in soffits); and Visa Lighting (pendant lighting at Cloverland)
Carpet Tile: Mohawk
Paint: PPG
Fiber-reinforced Laminate Wall Panels: Nevamar, Panolam Surface Systems
Tackable Wall Panels: Anchorage (Cloverland) and FR701 (Fair Oaks), both from Guilford of Maine
Acoustic Ceiling: Ultima Create!, Wood Looks, bamboo veneer finish from Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions
Plastic Laminate: Pionite, Panolam Surface Systems, and Wilsonart

The Retrofit

After building new cafeterias at Fair Oaks Elementary and Cloverland Elementary, the schools were left with unused multipurpose rooms. The space at Fair Oaks was 3,600 square feet while Cloverland’s room was 2,800 square feet. School district representatives opted to convert these rooms into library/media centers.

“Because we are a pretty rural agricultural community, the color scheme was based on nature with Fair Oaks representing the sky with blues and purples and yellow for the sun. Cloverland was Earth-based with multiple green tints,” explains Dan Casey, director of Maintenance and Operations for the school district.

Susan Dyke, the district’s chief business officer, worked with Lionakis to find playful but useful furniture for the spaces. For example, ottomans are on wheels and both schools’ library/media centers feature amphitheater seating. “The first day the library opened, the amphitheater seating was like a magnet to the students,” Casey recalls. “They quickly grabbed a book and went and laid down or sat on the seating.” Making the walls graphically interesting and creating curved soffits also adds to the environment.

Both library/media centers were completed in only 66 days.

Photos: Oakdale Joint Unified School District

School of Visual Arts MFA Photography/Video, New York

The industrial heritage of the building is highlighted through the use of reclaimed wood and blackened steel materials, as well as preservation of the original herringbone brick floor.

Retrofit Team

Architect: Spacesmith, New York
Structural Engineer: Engineering Group Associates, New York, (212) 982-1410
Code Consultant/Expeditor: Burnham, New York
Survey: ECS Group, Lake Hopatcong, N.J.
Information Technology/Audiovisual: Backhaul Engineering LLC, Fairfield, N.J.
Mechanical Engineer: EP Engineering LLC, New York
General Contractor: DiGiacomo & Son, New York, (212) 704-0750


The following materials were used in the project:
Movable Wall and Clerestory Windows: Custom made by DiGiacomo & Son, (212) 704-0750
Tackable Surface and Acoustic Fabric-wrapped Panels: Maharam
Acoustic Panels: Robin Reigi Inc.
Perforated Metal: Alpro
Mineral Fiber Composite Ceiling: Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions
Acoustically Rated Doors: MegaMet Industries
Ceiling Hung Acoustical Baffle System: Kirei

The Retrofit

School representatives engaged Spacesmith to renovate their popular MFA Photography program, which occupies the 6,000-square-foot ground floor of a former warehouse building. The project was divided into two phases: the first addressing all classroom, studio, faculty and common spaces; the second, a new multipurpose area connecting the façade to the interior.

The challenge was to marry high-traffic student areas with accessible, yet private faculty offices, focusing on air, light and sound control. Spacesmith reorganized the program by creating a circulation path that intuitively flows in and out of student hubs and faculty spaces.

At the department entrance off the building’s core, circulation splits. One pathway leads to the instruction and production areas, including two acoustically isolated editing rooms and a customized shooting studio. The other path leads to faculty offices separated from noise and activity. Both then meet at the front of the building and pour into the former loading dock located at street level 3-feet below. This unused area created a new programmatic element—a multipurpose meeting and gallery space now visible to the public after opening the façade, which had been sealed for decades. About 2,000 square feet were gained, allowing the program to expand its offerings.

The polished concrete floor of the interior level extends diagonally into the loading dock, creating storage underneath, and is flanked by a freestanding movable wall. With a tackable surface and large industrial hinge, this wall provides pin-up space and can unfold to divide the room in two. Spacesmith highlighted the building’s industrial heritage in this space through use of reclaimed wood and blackened steel materials, as well as preservation of the original herringbone brick floor. Reclaimed wood benches on rollers and a small stair connect the upper and lower levels, creating additional seating for events.

Three steel garage doors at the building’s façade were replaced with a glass storefront, creating a stronger street presence and allowing natural light into back-of-house spaces through corridors and clerestory windows of offices and classrooms.

Photos: Alexander Severin, courtesy Spacesmith

Berges Family Girl Scouts Program Center, Maryland Heights, Mo.

Retrofit Team

Design: Oculus Inc., St. Louis
Lisa Bell-Reim
Hannah Rohlfing
Joanne Fields
Christy Johnson
Rob Forney
General Contractor: McGrath and Associates Inc., St. Louis

The Berges Family Girl Scouts Program Center is housed in what once was a vacant office.


The following materials were used in the project:
Cabinets: Wilsonart
Cafeteria Furniture: SitOnIt Seating
Carpet: Interface
Ceilings: Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions
Ceramic Tile: Crossville and Daltile
Classroom Furniture: Safco
Flooring: Johnsonite
Lighting and Accessories: Focal Point
Lounge Furniture: Knoll
Multipurpose-areas Furniture: National Public Seating
Office Furniture: Borgo
Paint/Wallcoverings: Sherwin-Williams

The Retrofit

Adjacent to the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri’s headquarters, the new Berges Family Girl Scouts Program Center is housed in what once was a vacant office. The space now features learning areas, including a science lab, robotics lab, an open learning kitchen, and group/teaming spaces. The expansion invites rural, suburban, and urban girls of all ages and skill levels to interact; take on leadership roles; and participate in premier activities and events, including many delivered through partnerships with businesses and community organizations.

Vibrant pops of color, a seating Keva, suspended round light fixtures, acoustical ceiling “clouds” and a glass feature wall are highlights of the 6,000-square-foot space. Oculus’ design team came up with various solutions to keep the project within budget, such as utilizing existing partitions and doors, negotiating discount pricing on finishes and fixtures on behalf of the client, maximizing design impact with paint, working closely with the general contractor for value-engineering concepts, and discussing possibilities of shared restroom counts with code officials.

The center, which has been fully booked since its completion in April 2016, has been awarded the 2018 St. Louis at Home’s Architect & Design Awards—Commercial Space Finalist from St. Louis magazine and 2017 American School and University Outstanding Design award: Community Use from American School and University magazine.

Before Photo: Oculus Inc.
After Photos: Alise O’Brien Photography