Extreme Makeovers

NOT EVERY PRESERVATION AND RENOVATION PROJECT NEED BE DONE WITH SUBTLETY; SOMETIMES A MORE RADICAL APPROACH IS NEEDED — BUT IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE ORIGINAL BUILDING.

By Suzanne Stephens

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Downey, California

Frank R. Webb Architects took an old aeronautics building in an industrial wasteland near Los Angeles and made it habitable and visually palatable.

Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson knew when to leave well enough alone in converting two old barns into offices and an event space near Fallingwater.

Long Island City, New York

Daniel Goldner Architects transformed a dilapidated brick structure into a training facility for ornamental and architectural ironworkers.

Tokyo, Japan

Kengo Kuma & Associates created an evocative museum for a Japanese abstract artist using remnants from his former house and atelier.

Downey, California

Frank R. Webb Architects took an old aeronautics building in an industrial wasteland near Los Angeles and made it habitable and visually palatable.

Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson knew when to leave well enough alone in converting two old barns into offices and an event space near Fallingwater.

Long Island City, New York

Daniel Goldner Architects transformed a dilapidated brick structure into a training facility for ornamental and architectural ironworkers.

Tokyo, Japan

Kengo Kuma & Associates created an evocative museum for a Japanese abstract artist using remnants from his former house and atelier.

For more information on these projects, go to Building Types Study at www.archrecord.com.

Long before Extreme Makeover: Home Edition became the rage among television viewers, the topic had been covered in print, particularly in the dramatic "before" and "after" remodeling issues of Architectural Digest. Once a year, since February 1992, the magazine has presented a riveting assortment of houses and apartments turned from dreary, bare-bones residences into ultra-luxurious settings.

In the world of larger, commercial buildings—and tight budgets—the same dramatic metamorphoses occur. We don't mean the painstaking restorations of treasured theaters or churches, or even the careful updating of old buildings for new uses. We are talking about the renovation where a deeply problematic piece of nonarchitecture is transformed into a designed artifact that is truly uplifting—one that not only affects the immediate surroundings, but sends a message that architecture still has the power to enhance the built environment.

In this issue, we present four "extreme makeovers" of varying types. Two—Independence Park, an office complex for Kaiser Permanente in Downey, California (near Los Angeles), by Frank R. Webb Architects; and Ironworkers Local 580: Apprentice and Training Facility in Long Island City, New York, by Daniel Goldner Architects—represent drastic conversions of visual dross into exemplary modern design. Both renovations, which transfigure the buildings' interior and urban environments, are located in light-industrial areas where architecture with a capital A is rarely seen.

A third makeover demonstrates that a renovation can be radical and at the same time leave the best alone. In renovating The Barn at Fallingwater, in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson discovered that the main barn interior, with its open slats letting in air and daylight, was too compelling a space to change. So it didn't. The firm convinced the client to change the program. This space is now rented out for weddings, receptions, and conferences during the warmer months of the year. And it still stands in all its pristine beauty. With the remainder of the complex, the architects sensitively used natural materials, including straw-bale panels, to underscore the structure's vernacular beauty.

A fourth example in this roundup is so extreme, it is in a category by itself. The Masanari Murai Art Museum, in Tokyo, dedicated to the work of the eponymous abstract artist, was designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates to preserve the traces of Murai's house and workshop. In this case, the original had deteriorated so much that little could be salvaged, except the atelier and parts of the wood structure. Kuma did so with a clarity and inventiveness that illustrates that even in the most extreme makeover, the spirit of the place can be saved. ■

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Independence Park

Downey, California

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