Core77 Design Awards
- Other Years
5K is an adaptive reuse project by Prince Concepts, designed by UNDECORATED architects that transformed a nondescript, dilapidated 1950s "warehouse" with very little natural light into an inspired corporate headquarters with three courtyards and 52 trees planted within the building and across the site.
By replacing 30% of the building's crumbling roof with open courtyard spaces, architect Ishtiaq Rafiuddin of UNDECORATED saved on renovation, solved the lack of natural light in the building's interior and created a series of urban oases.
Where developers often adapt architecturally-significant buildings and tear down insignificant ones, 5K transformed a seemingly unrepairable, utilitarian structure into a thoughtful and inspired space.
Our intention was to convert this one-story 1950s "warehouse" building into a multi-family residential space. We liked the idea of a new type of "loft building"; instead of converting an architecturally significant industrial building into inspired living spaces, Prince Concepts converted this insignificant and tired building into a thoughtful and sought-after space.
We began by making a list of the assets and liabilities. Ceiling height: asset. 12,000 SF footprint: asset. Intact brick walls surrounding the building: asset. Only five interior columns across the entire footprint: asset. Prime location on a trafficked corner: asset and liability. Beautiful terrazzo floor from the 1950s: asset. A view of the Grand Trunk rail line rolling by on the north side of the property: asset. A flat pancake-like shape with no distinct character and very little natural light in the middle of the building: liability. Uninspired and nondescript exterior: liability.
An idea struck—remove sections of roof to create outdoor courtyards in the middle of the building and therefore create a special moment and solve the lack of light in the building's interior. This idea made sense: we needed to soften the building with landscape and greenspace, and we needed to replace the entire roof, so why not remove 30 percent of it?
We decided to implement three courtyards; making the front and more public portion of the building three commercial spaces surrounding one courtyard, and turning the back portion of the building into eight apartments. Five apartments would be downstairs surrounding two courtyards, and three loft-style apartments upstairs with views of the courtyards and the rail line. The original structure includes 1,000 SF of second story, to which we added an additional 2,400 SF—using the ceiling heights in this section of the building to our advantage.
We worked with Landscape Architect Julie Bargmann to devise a simple, appropriate and inspired landscape plan for the building, turning the 30,000 SF of land on the site that is sandwiched between the building and the Grand Trunk Rail-line into a park-in-grove, featuring 20 parking spaces with 26 trees. We also planted another 26 Gingko trees across the three courtyards and within the building.
The key to our landscape plan was the preservation of the terrazzo floor in the courtyards. Instead of discarding the removed floor, we cut it into terrazzo tiles for walkways and benches in the courtyards. Bargmann methodically placed these tiles in interesting patterns to promote wandering walking paths and places to gather.
Even though the building was originally designed to be mixed use, our inspired design compelled a 50 plus person company in downtown Detroit to lease the entire building while we were only 60 percent completed with construction. We changed course, and the buildout was completed for Bloomscape in November of 2020. This project has shown that an adaptive reuse project doesn't need to begin with a significant building, something special can be made from almost anything.