Bradley Lincoln -- Interior Design, 10/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Back in 1904, former Minnesota governor John Sargent Pillsbury gave Minneapolis a handsome new beaux arts public library, which served the community for more than 60 years. It then fell into disrepair, suffering incarnations as a community center, a diagnostic lab, and, lastly, an art gallery. Recently, the building was purchased for repurposing as the headquarters of a local family's charitable fund. Part of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, the structure has been on protected registries since 1992, which complicated restoration and remodeling. "There was a double process to get permits and approval for anything," says Deborah Everson, a principal of Domain Architecture & Design, which handled the exterior restoration and all the architectural work.
In addition, the client requested that the entire renovation be environmentally friendly. There's nothing greener than reusing an existing structure, and Everson was thrilled with the raw material. The 5,000-square-foot edifice had a grand symmetry and a recurring grid pattern with an easy rhythm. "It was a joy," she says. "There aren't many classical buildings in Minneapolis."
Sensitive handling was needed to maintain the historic design elements while updating a crumbling infrastructure with modern technology. To comply with ADA-accessibility mandates, a modernist glass pavilion with an elevator was added at the rear of the building. "Typically, you'd do a ramp, but this had a 9-foot rise and we didn't want to have to add a 100-foot incline," explains Everson. "The addition takes inspiration from the style of the building, stripping those ideas down to their basic form."
Eco-compliant lighting, on the other hand, is a complicated issue. "LEED certification requires that lights are low-energy," says Everson, "but this site isn't in the best neighborhood. For safety concerns, we needed to brighten the environment." LEDs lining the exterior walls light up its white Vermont marble.
The interior also needed illumination. In the building's last incarnation it was called a gallery, "but it was more of a warehouse," says designer Andrew Flesher, principal of GunkelmanFlesher Interior Design, which handled the project's interior design. "The previous owner had blocked up most of the windows." Flesher opened these up and installed internal glass walls to create light-transmitting office spaces. During interior demolition, nine original stained-glass skylights with cryptic designs were discovered over the central atrium. "We were totally surprised," Everson remarks. "None of our research indicated they were up there, and no one can figure out what the symbols mean." Local artisans restored them and they are now backlit to glow evenly throughout the day.
"When the architecture has as much going on as it does here, I like the furnishings to recede into the background," Flesher says. To achieve a to-be-determined gold rating, he was challenged to find LEED-compliant products. "We were thinking marble for the bathroom flooring, but materials have to originate from within a 500-mile-radius." The firm locally sourced a natural linoleum-composite material instead. Thickly textured neutrally colored wool rugs were then added on top of the espresso-stained chevron oak flooring elsewhere, while geometric drum lampshades play off the arches throughout the building. The terse forms of classic 1960's and '70's furniture pieces, many purchased on the secondary market, are dressed up with luxe fabrics and contrast nicely with the sleek white oak pieces made locally.
The clients love contemporary art and are building an impressive collection that's installed throughout the offices. Already, an engraved Jenny Holzer bench sits in the airy central atrium and a Thomas Struth photograph appoints the conference room. Keeping things local, however, are bright abstract oil paintings by Minnesota artists in the entry and the executive offices, which liven the centenarian surrounds.
FROM FRONT MCGUIRE: LAMPS (LOBBY). FROST CABINETS: CUSTOM END TABLES (LOBBY), CUSTOM TABLE (CONFERENCE ROOM). THROUGH PARAMETERS: SOFAS, CHAIRS (LOBBY), BENCH (ENTRY), STOOLS (OFFICE), TABLE (MEETING ROOM). DONGHIA: WALL COVERING (ENTRY), SOFA FABRIC (OFFICE). SPINNEYBECK: CHAIR UPHOLSTERY (LOBBY), BENCH UPHOLSTERY (ENTRY). THROUGH SILAS SEANDEL: COCKTAIL TABLE BASE (LOBBY). THROUGH BRIN NORTHWESTERN: COCKTAIL TABLE TOP. PWV STUDIOS: CUSTOM RUG. BOYD: PENDANT FIXTURES (ENTRY). THROUGH NOHO MODERN: ARMCHAIRS (OFFICE). KNOLL: CHAIR FABRIC. HINSON & COMPANY: COCKTAIL TABLE. VAUGHAN DESIGNS: LAMP. HOLLY HUNT: SOFA. DESIGNTEX: WALL COVERING. BLUE RIDGE COMMERCIAL CARPET: CARPET (OFFICE, CONFERENCE ROOM). BRUNSWIG & FILS: CURTAINS (CONFERENCE ROOM). ENRICO PELLIZZONI: CHAIRS (CONFERENCE ROOM, MEETING ROOM). THROUGH FAT CHANCE: LAMPS (CONFERENCE ROOM). GEIGER: DESK (OFFICE). DUNBAR FURNITURE: GUEST CHAIRS. THROUGH THE ANTON GROUP: TASK CHAIR. THROUGH DESIGN WITHIN REACH: FLOOR LAMP. THROUGHOUT BENJAMIN MOORE& CO.: PAINT. SCHULER SHOOK: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. LANDSCAPE RESEARCH: HISTORICAL CONSULTANT. ENGINEERING, ENERGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: ENERGY CONSULTANT. ATOMIC RECYCLING: RECYCLING CONTRACTOR. GAYTEE STAINED GLASS: STAINED-GLASS RESTORATION. ADVANCED MASONRY RESTORATION: STONEWORK. YALE MECHANICAL: MECHANICAL ENGINEER. FRASER-MORRIS ELECTRIC COMPANY: ELECTRIC ENGINEER. HORWITZ: PLUMBING ENGINEER. MATTSON MACDONALD YOUNG: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER. RYAN COMPANIES: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.