Program and tectonics drove the design of this main street infill building in a small Washington mill town. The program for the building was to be a micro format retail and commercial building that was required to be low maintenance and long lived. The client wished to create a commercial incubator to help revitalize the main commercial street of the town.
From the outset of this project, we were asked to seriously consider a brick building for both its contextual qualities as well as its durability. Many neighboring historic buildings lining Main Street were constructed using the typical American strategy of a brick veneer wall for the primary street façade, and painted plaster walls as a secondary, supporting material. We adopted the brick of these façades for use not only as a material building block, but also to serve as an allegorical framework to reinterpret the surrounding context and to act as a direct iconographic representation of the building program.
The potential of the brick tectonic was expanded in scale to inform the building massing and illustrate how repetitive units can collectively create a cohesive whole. We posited the building as a loose stack of programmatic blocks, each space operating on the scale of the singular, and collectively giving the building its overall form. The resulting massing can be read as a sculptural singularity or allowed to fluctuate in scale in relation to its materiality. This duality sponsors and activates the pedestrian realm with a series of varied and literate street walls.
The building was constructed with an exposed wide flange steel frame, which allowed us to create the brick veneer boxes independent of their structural requirements. The contextual historic veneered building is thus reinterpreted in a 3 dimensional manifestation, where the shells of brick veneer create massing elements highlighting the building’s glazed tenant spaces, lined with white cement panels that nod to the secondary walls of its neighbors.