The city of Guthrie is a small rural community in southern Kentucky that once played a significant role in the expansion of the country's transportation network in the early 1900's through the construction of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad line. After a period of economic decline, the city has recently been the focus of renewal efforts to revive its downtown core. As the first development to be completed within a broader vision plan for the city, the project addresses several overlapping community interests:
To structurally stabilize, preserve & rehabilitate two historic brick storefront structures that were in an advanced state of decay and partial collapse
To create a facility to welcome visitors and share the story of Guthrie's role in the early development of the country's railroad industry
To provide a multi-use venue as a place for the community to gather
With a modest budget funded solely through neighborhood block development grants and federal transportation stimulus funds, the design process was guided by a collaborative team comprised of the entire community, the Kentucky Heritage Council, and state & federal agencies.
The design approach utilizes a simple strategy of three key elements: 1) a new structural steel frame to stabilize the existing buildings, 2) a 'black box' zone that consolidates core support functions in order to maximize open flexible spaces, and 3) a new concrete service tower for vertical circulation (to be up-fitted in Phase II) that also functions as a structural anchor.
A deliberate visual layering between existing & new elements is used to reveal and amplify the defining characteristics of the original structures through contrast - in particular the original brick & painted plaster surfaces that hint at their former uses. Additionally, the color coding of new elements with a black tint further emphasizes the sense of historical layering.