Forgotten No More: Using design to optimize space and value
A mentor once told me, “The creative difference between Art and Architecture is that art is created to convey an artist’s perspective, and architecture should always meet the client’s needs.”
I always keep this in mind when approaching projects, regardless of whether it’s a ground-up new building or a 1,500-square-foot office suite.
At Ebbrell Architecture + Design, we often tell our clients we’re not architects with a capital “A” as a means to let them know that we are there to serve them by not only meeting their needs, but also by using our expertise to find opportunities to make design work for them.
One way we do this is to find and optimize forgotten spaces. For example, an underused supply closet in a Dean’s suite at Northeastern University was repurposed as an open coffee bar station for visitors. A new connecting stair study for a tech firm became an exercise where we configured the U-stair in a tight spot while still preserving valuable floor space below for planter beds and break-out bench seating. A spacious but dark and unprogrammed entrance for Cirtronics Corporation was transformed into a light, bright branding opportunity with a visible reception zone, new vendor presentation space, and an inviting visitor waiting area with a renovated central stair.
A few years ago, a valued property owner client approached us after they purchased a prime commercial 11-story building in downtown Boston, which had four additional below-grade levels. The building appeared tired, the tenants were entrenched, and the amenities were nonexistent. In addition to providing a facelift, reorganizing the ground-floor lobby, and sprucing up of the façade and lighting, we looked for ways to make the building more attractive to prospective tenants who would be willing to pay a premium rent that better matched the building’s desirable downtown address.
Our team surveyed the lower levels of storages rooms, utility areas, and the dark, unleased empty corners. What emerged from the design process was a solution that maximized multiple levels and layers of newly “found” and modernized space – four new and accessible amenities were added to the building’s shared space: common conference areas, a bicycle storage room, a full-range fitness center, and an inviting tenant lounge. Bright interior lighting and glass walls contributed to a more open and attractive suite of tenant amenity space that would have otherwise been left in the dark.
As architects, this type of result – one that exceeds client expectations – even surprises us at times when we see the potential of lost space reborn as optimized, programmed zones that completes a bigger picture than what we set out to achieve. It adds value beyond what our clients envisioned, which for us, is what we hope for as a reflection of our creative problem-solving approach and design expertise.