Friday, May 24, 2013

Re-claiming the past

HBI is pleased to present architect, Chris Brown of b architecture studio, who is currently working on the Vertullo Building in Hyde Park. Chris has written a guest blog post on how he went about recreating the storefronts on this project.

As we know, the buildings we live and work in have a life all their own. While we think of preservation as doing our best to keep and re-attach handsome facades and features, sometimes we have to do a bit more to rediscover the past and recreate for years to come.

The Vertullo Building is a loved handyman’s special. A partial deconstruction and investigation targeted the storefronts and upper cornice details. What we learned as we stripped away decades of renovations and “patch jobs” is that the building and its owner did their best to promote the viability and longevity of this place in the neighborhood. Amongst today’s seemingly constant array of green buzzwords the former owner didn’t waste a scrap of wood or metal.
Sell, sell, sell. Storefronts provide the constant connection and live updates of the businesses and organizations that inhabit them, as well as defining our sense of place. As we began designing the storefronts it became evident that this building needed to re-contribute to that sense of place and to honor its workmanlike past. Quite frankly off the shelf aluminum storefronts were not going to cut it.

The recessed angle bays needed to be accentuated and those repetitive outside corners needed to be light and uncomplicated. As we dug into historic photos and the aforementioned investigation we learned that the storefront sills were, and appropriately so, much lower and closer to the sidewalk. As the building stands now the only way to appreciate the storefront’s transoms is from awkward interior views as they have been boarded up as an approach to protect the glass. With the help of old photos and physical documentation we re-created the proportions of the storefronts to allow for high transoms to bring natural light into deep interior spaces, large glass panes for proud shop owners to display their businesses, and a lower, solid base to anchor this prominent neighborhood building. Creating this design out of custom yet simple wood elements provided the opportunity we all sought for a handsome storefront that re-fits itself into the building and its place in the neighborhood. 

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