Walking through Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood, architect Amy Shakespeare eyed an industrial building for rent. As a board member at Rebuilding Together NYC, well aware that it needed more space, Shakespeare contacted the real-estate broker, and a lease was eventually signed. Her firm, Shakespeare, Gordon, Vlado: Architects, then worked pro bono to design an 1,800-square-foot office, accommodating 17 employees, and an additional 2,100 square feet for classrooms, a store selling salvage, and warehouse space. Other donors included Shawmut Design and Construction and Affordable Interior Systems.
Interior Design deputy editor Annie Block also serves on the board of the nonprofit, which brings volunteers together to improve the homes of low-income owners during Rebuilding Days organized around the city and also provides job training for construction workers. Highlighting construction materials was therefore a guiding principle for the office design. The reception desk, built-ins, and workstations are clear-finished or painted plywood. Private offices and a conference room are fronted by panels of the corrugated, clear plastic typically used for greenhouses—supported here by Douglas fir studs. Exposed sprinklers, painted red, contribute to the raw look. As the nine-month project neared completion, Shakespeare says, “A blank white wall was crying out for something cool.” No artist stepped forward, and the budget was tight, so she and staff at her firm designed a map of the city’s five boroughs and painted the mural themselves.