Wrapping the patina of the past

by Alyson Tanguay, collaborator with Gamble Associates

Building uses change, but forms endure. This 10,000 square foot adaptive reuse project in Piqua, Ohio has had many lives. Over the last century, the structure has been a successful granite and marble tombstone business, a car dealership and motorcycle repair store, a barber shop, ladies hat retailer, billiards hall and even – in the mid-19th century when the adjacent Lock Nine was functioning as part of the Great Miami and Erie Canal – a tavern! In some cases, even a building’s use can endure.

Photo credit: Ty Greenlees

Originally built in 1923, the renovated space is now the home of Springboro-based Crooked Handle Brewery. Like many historic structures, the building was built in phases. A more formal “showroom” space lines Main Street and an operations “warehouse” is located to the rear of the property. The two spaces had different construction types, volumes and interior finishes. Programmatically, the client wished to utilize the warehouse space, with its higher ceilings and wooden trusses for brewing production, and leverage the visibility of the commercial façade for a formal space that could be leased out on separate occasions. A central kitchen was needed to serve both spaces. The architectural challenge was tying the two spaces together.

The design capitalizes on a single wall that separates the served spaces from the serviced. We thought of the wall as a contemporary, multi-functional element, something distinctive that could fold and bend and accommodate many things. At times the folded wall gets thicker for storage or the vertical surface turns horizontal to create a lower ceiling plane for recessed lighting. The wrapper’s geometry and material palette wanted to be different so that it could be recognized as a new insertion within an old shell. As the design progressed, the lines changed and became more angular. The client just smartly observed “They’re crooked!”

As interior demolition began in spring and summer, the layering of the former uses become more evident, exposing deposits and superimpositions from the past. Removing a dropped showroom ceiling added three feet of space to the interior and revealed an interior monitor lightwell that became a centerpiece for the new space. In older buildings, sometimes one’s primary contribution can simply be elimination. We wanted to keep as much of this patina on the perimeter as we could, something Jorge Otero-Pailos describes in the Ethics of Preservation as a “time stain”.

The building entries have been re-oriented. The building was identified in the 2013 Riverfront Development Strategy (City Visions Associates) as a key property that could be repositioned to better connect the downtown to the riverfront. The three-acre Lock Nine Park (also designed by Gamble Associates in collaboration with Booker Design Collaborative) will be constructed in Spring 2023 adjacent to the site with an outdoor terrace and views to the Great Miami River, a water-feature and excavated limestone walls from Lock Nine which had been buried for 100 years. The new open spaces re-orient the building so that the warehouse space will overlook the park.

[1] Places Journal, January 2011, Laura Raskin.

Crooked Handle | Project Team:

  • UIC
  • Porter Fanna
  • Booker Design Collaborative
  • Choice One Engineering
  • Omloop

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