- Design Team: Gerard Damiani, Debbie Battistone, José Pertierra-Arrojo, Principal
- Clients: Gerard Damiani, Debbie Battistone
- Collaborators: Angela Castellano, Meghan Pisarcik, Ellen Zhu
- City: Pittsburgh
- Country: United States
Text description provided by the architects. This adaptive re-use of a tax-delinquent property is located in the often neglected and ruggedly authentic Pittsburgh neighborhood called Uptown, located between downtown and Oakland. Located on an alley close to one of the major arteries of the city, this nineteenth-century commercial building is tucked between typical brick row houses and has served many functions over the years including as a furniture warehouse and later an office.
Built as a tall one-story concrete block L shaped building, it provided a chain-link enclosed service court leading to a loading dock. Due to severe neglect over many years, it suffered an overgrowth of vegetation, including a tree growing within the block wall, and a water-damaged roof structure and interior. The goal of this project was to work with the existing building elements in ways that leverage these elements compositionally and functionally while also reminding one of, and hopefully fostering an appreciation of, the building's humble past.
The project was conceived mainly as a co-working space (presently the architect’s office) while also providing car storage. An existing door and two windows located on the street façade were infilled and a graveled forecourt (the former service court) is defined by a large rolling weathered steel wall providing privacy and security. This strategy redirects individuals from the narrow, and at times, inaccessible sidewalk and alley to a new entry sequence leading to the co-working space’s new entry. During work hours when the rolling wall is docked, this forecourt space becomes a public space along Tustin Street and doubles as a mock-up courtyard.
A concrete ramp extends up from the gravel court to the co-working space level. Bright green steel elements activate the space along with a super-sized ribbon window opening of mirrored glass that reflects the activities of the forecourt. The glass wall's window components were cut-offs (typically waste items) from a commercial window system and repurposed. The alternating hopper/ awning configuration acknowledges the courtyard and allows natural ventilation to the interior due to the operable units.
Within the interior, a newly constructed ceiling of LVLs (laminated veneer lumber) defines the main working area while the existing ceiling joists and new light tubes define a meeting and reference area. The desks, a display wall, a window shelf, the meeting area table, and its Enzo Maro seating are made from re-purposed wood from the roof joists whose ends were decayed as a result of the building’s neglect.
An insulated roof with white EPDM helps to reduce the heat effect and closed-cell insulation, radiant heat and LED lighting are used throughout the project to reduce overall energy consumption. As the building was once consumed entirely by vegetation, the interior lighting layout reinterprets this past neglect by treating the EMT tubing as a lighting vine that originates at the mechanical service room and grows into the space concluding at the large meeting table. Industrial shelving units and the kitchenette are covered with A-C plywood acting as modest space definers within the room.
A new concrete slab containing radiant heating was placed atop the existing interior concrete slab. The new slab is pulled back from the existing interior perimeter at a few select conditions to reveal that it is a new layer added to the building. This also allows for simple cleaning using the reveal as a sweep-to trough. The existing loading dock slab was lowered to accommodate on-grade internal parking for the owner’s vintage Volvos.