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CannonDesign’s St. Louis Office Celebrates 10 Years in Historic Power House
In 2006, CannonDesign saw a rare opportunity for its St. Louis office in one of the city’s signature buildings: a vacant steam-heat power plant built in 1928 as part of the city’s post-World’s Fair economic re-development efforts.
Ten years later, after a major redesign and adaptive re-use process that gutted its interior and created a new-meets-old design concept, the Power House is still generating positive energy for its occupants — our St. Louis headquarters — its neighborhood, and its city. We celebrate its first decade with a look back at its history and impact.
When built, the Power House powered a dozen downtown city buildings, including City Hall, the Kiel Opera House, and multiple municipal buildings and courthouses. Its coal-burning mechanics were visible to the public through the glorious 26-foot-tall arched windows. A significant building for residents, the Power House was a flagship of great civic initiative and a pillar of municipal pride.
But in 1980, after more than a half-century in operation, the plant was decommissioned. Falling sharply into disrepair, its beautiful brick facade became an eyesore; its roof infamously sprouted trees — an ironic last hope for life on this blighted neighborhood cornerstone. A landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, the Power House needed new fuel.
It sat vacant for some 25 years, until CannonDesign purchased it as a new home for our St. Louis regional office. The team quickly realized its potential as a truly unique office environment, and as an emblem of the neighborhood’s rebirth.
Under the project leadership of principal Thomas Bergmann and design leadership of David Polzin, the new design that emerged reflected CannonDesign’s ideals of creativity, collaboration and sustainable design.
“We wanted the office to be demonstrative of our values. We wanted to inject the work environment with an atmosphere that would stimulate design exploration; we created multiple soft spaces for teams to come together to collaborate, and we pursued LEED Gold certification, working with our engineers to understand building performance,” says David.
The challenge was a small building footprint, but a large volume of space. The immense interior was gutted to its brick shell, maintaining the only massive steel plate columns. A whole new interior was injected into the brick shell, calling for “ship-in-a-bottle”-precision construction methods.
All-new HVAC, plumbing and electrical infrastructure were added; concrete foundations were exposed as walls for conference rooms; and two new floor plates were added above the ground floor to make use of the building’s dramatic height. By holding the new floors away from the exterior walls, all employees benefit from access to significant daylight and beautiful beautiful panoramic views of the neighboorhood.
[Learn more about the Power House’s adaptive re-use design in High Performing Buildings.]
The new design was an immediate success for CannonDesign’s 100-employee St. Louis team, as David explains: “The most gratifying part about the building has been the joy of seeing it used as it was intended … it has been transformative for our design culture.”
It also signaled a new day for its community. Since opening, the office has renewed the area’s interest in adaptive re-use of its historical structures, and has inspired a new generation of similar projects throughout the design-build landscape.
For CannonDesign, the project has garnered us with multiple international awards, including the AIA Institute Honor Award, the SARA Distinguished Building of the Year, and the ARIDO Project of the year, among others.
But beyond awards and recognition sits the nearly century-old truth of the great Power House — that in generating and distributing power to a city, even a hallmark building is more than its beams and bricks. When it becomes a city’s hub of energy, growth and later rebirth, it becomes the very cornerstone of its identity.
That the company’s vision in 2006 paid off is an enormous feather in our cap, to be sure. But that it did so in honor of the city’s legacy of design, industry and midwestern sense of community, is an even bigger reward.
Happy new 10th birthday, Power House! A toast from your CannonDesign family, working hard to fuel your next 90 years!
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE HISTORIC POWER HOUSE >
Setting the Stage for the Future of Higher Education – Insights from SCUP 2018 Annual Conference
Each year, members of the CannonDesign education team head to the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) 2018 Annual Conference to learn about the latest trends in campus planning, and gather insights that will help inform our own designs and plans moving forward.
This year, five CannonDesign leaders – clockwise, from top left: Phil Dordai, Trevor Calarco, Mike Glaros, Jenny Miller and David Coleman – attended and report on their visits here. The conference presented a broad, relevant topic that is top of mind for planners on both the client and architect side: setting the stage for the future of higher education.
Talks explored challenges facing higher education, the impact of politics on campus, and how planners, administrators and designers can adapt to changing generational demands.
A key theme discussed surrounded how campuses are looking for creative ways to insert new or updated buildings within already dense campuses. Right-sizing and right-spacing facilities, finding ways to house multiple curriculums (even if disparate in nature) under one roof, and using data and analytics to find the most efficient use of space are just some of the methods planners are adopting to ensure student, faculty and administrative needs are met.
In a similar vein, campuses are also getting innovative in creating new subtypes of spaces or programs, such as creating new multipurpose student centers/unions that house shared environments. These ladder into the trend of incoming generations being interested now more than ever before in the quality of their experiences on campus. Students want accessible wellness centers, retail, dining, prayer spaces, etc. They want to know that they have spaces where they can proactively spend time, versus reactively finding them in times of need. As a result, planners and designers alike will need to continue to source new ideas for creating these proactive experiences, and give students spaces they want to hang out and spend time in.
A final hot topic of focus was the impact of politics on campus. As with many industries, issues like immigration policies are affecting international student enrollment numbers. And like other industries, it’s predicted that decreases in international enrollment could result in serious consequences for business plans in higher education institutions if those drops in enrollment from last year continue. It remains to be seen what these consequences will entail, but will be important to monitor, and prepare for.
Overall the conference provided interesting takeaways, but more importantly, challenged those that presented and attended to continue to expand their creative thinking within a campus planning framework. It will be interesting to see how these trends and insights are reflected within the physical campus space in the coming years.
Intern to Intern: Part 2
As summer break drew to a close, our interns were hard at work putting the finishing touches on the various projects they’ve been involved with throughout their time with us. CannonDesign had close to 45 interns this summer, and as a MarCom intern in our Buffalo office, I had the unique opportunity to interview many of them about their internship experience as part of the Intern to Intern series. Check out Part 1 and Part 3 to hear more of their stories!
Name: Valerie Poutous
School: Virginia Tech
As her fifth year in an Architecture program at Virginia Tech begins, Valerie admits she is more than ready to start working and get licensed. Her summer as an Architecture Intern in our Baltimore office gave her a teasing taste of what the working world has to offer, and she is now counting down the days until she can work full-time. She began college as an engineering major and says that the multidisciplinary nature of CannonDesign has given her confidence in her decision to pursue a career in architecture, as her work in the office has shown how interconnected the two fields are in practice. Though she is serious about growing her career, Valerie also enjoys taking the time to stay active and social. In-between working on projects, you can find her (along with many other members of our Baltimore office) hitting the softball diamond for a weekly company pickup game. They are admittedly terrible, but the local rivalries (in addition to random trips to the beach) have been the highlight of Valerie’s summer.
Name: Max Davidowitz
School: Boston University
Discipline: Mechanical Engineering
As a burgeoning music producer, it is no surprise that what Max Davidowitz values most about his time at CannonDesign is the firm’s ability to meld the creative with the technical. Max is a Mechanical Engineering Intern in our Boston office, and spends his free time creating backing tracks for local artists in Myanmar in coordination with humanitarian and charitable efforts overseas. He wanted an internship that would allow him to combine these creative interests with his engineering background and thought that a design firm would be best suited for his goals. After his experience this summer, he says he “can’t believe how in other firms there are distinct offices for each discipline” as it is the collaborative, multidisciplinary structure of the firm which has taught him the most. Max would like to thank the entire Boston mechanical engineering discipline for being so welcoming and attentive and would also like to give a special shout-out to the construction worker who called him “SpongeBob Skinny Pants” during his first on-site visit.
Name: Jenifer Duong
Office: Washington DC
School: Cornell University
Discipline: Interior Design
Jenifer starts projects and never finishes them — her projects being a (very large) handful of the 1,500+ shows on Netflix, and NOT those assigned to her as an Interior Design Intern in our DC office. Though her television habits say otherwise, her track record as a designer demonstrates a wholehearted commitment to all that she does. As a senior at Cornell studying design and environmental analysis, Jenifer has broken records at school for the longest time in the studio. The time to beat? Seventy-two consecutive hours! Though her time with CannonDesign hasn’t forced her into the studio for half a week (the exception being one fun-filled night making a deadline with her team), the experience she has gained is nothing she could have gotten from the studio at Cornell. A quick glance at her desk may make you think it’s nothing more than an ever-growing pile of samples, but a second look will show Jenifer hard at work creating finish boards and sorting through schedules. Though she appreciates everyone in the office for all their help, she’d like to especially thank Charu Kelkar for all the tips and rides home!
Name: Austin Izzo
School: SUNY Buffalo
Austin Izzo is CannonDesign’s first ever Sustainability Intern, and according to Amir Rezaei, we are very lucky to have had him with us in our Buffalo office this summer. At 23, he is about to finish his second degree, a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University at Buffalo – adding to his Associate’s in Automotive Technology from SUNY Canton. Austin’s internship is unique in that his position is directly tied to a CD project – an update to UB’s Integrated Collaborative Energy and Climate Action Plan, which required CannonDesign to hire an intern from UB to work on the project. He had connected with his supervisor (and UB project leader) Amir months before he even began his internship search, during a career fair event at UB, and credits him as the No. 1 reason why he decided he needed to work at the firm. After a summer of doing extensive research and analysis with Amir, Austin feels the same way he did when they first connected and feels comfortable saying that Amir is 100 percent the data geek he claims to be. When he isn’t creating energy models and learning how to quantify and use energy data, you can find Austin building accessible, solar-powered auto-irrigation garden beds for nursing homes with the UB Engineers for a Sustainable World, or biking around the streets of Buffalo on the Midnight Ride.
Apply for an Internship at CannonDesign Today! >
CannonDesign’s First Annual Community Service Day
Recently, our employees took a day to address immediate needs in their communities by volunteering for over 30 nonprofit organizations all over the country for CannonDesign’s first annual Community Service Day. Amazing stories of hard work and giving back came from many of our offices and a round-up of those stories are below.
This is the Baltimore Office’s third year of hosting a high school student at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. This time, we thought it would be a great opportunity for all of us to take a trip to Cristo Rey for the Community Service Day. The seventeen of us split into two teams: one team repainting corridor walls and stairwell railings while the other team groomed their front outdoor area and lovely courtyard space. The outcome was mutually impactful as the Baltimore office had a fun day of service and community collaboration off-site, while Cristo Rey Jesuit High School was pleased with their new spaces just in time for the 2018 academic school year.
Boston OfficeA large group from the Boston office took part in the cleanup of The Fenway Victory Gardens for an upcoming community event. Victory Gardens are the oldest continuously operating WWII community gardens in the United States, providing respite and joy to a vibrant and diverse inner-city community. We labored hard on what had turned out to be the hottest day of the summer, fulfilling two important and glamorous tasks: turning and moving compost heaps and picking up Canadain geese poop.
Buffalo OfficeThe Buffalo office volunteers split up into teams at three different, very deserving organizations. A group met up with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy for a clean-up and beautification effort at their Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on the city’s East Side. We dug right into weeding, mulching and tree-planting in the morning. On the other side of the city (Buffalo’s West Side), another group gathered to help PUSH Buffalo (People United For Sustainable Housing) canvas the neighborhood to inform residents of a new community solar initiative. This initiative could potentially provide the underserved neighborhood with clean, solar energy at a reduced cost. We walked door-to-door, knocked on them all, talked to people, asked for signatures and also left flyers. Over on the East Side, the final team helped clean and refresh the Seneca Street Community Development Corporation‘s building. The organization serves an at-risk population in the city and provides after-school programs for children and teens. We went right to work cleaning the kitchen, weeding the playground, overhauling the community garden, staining the ADA ramp, refinishing the floors in the gym and much more.
Chicago OfficeThe Chicago office team got a tour of Rebuilding Exchange’s vast warehouse and workshop spaces and learned about the organization’s mission and history of diverting construction waste from landfills by creating a market for reclaimed building materials. Some of the group helped create cutting boards, cheese boards, coasters, and other crafts that will be sold to raise money for the organization at Chicago’s Renegade Art Fair. The remainder of the group helped with organization and inventory in the warehouse. A group of us also volunteered at Emily Oaks Nature Center. We all got dirty, sweaty and chatty during the three-hour weeding and planting time. This is what we call team building! Many of us gained new skills and some perfected the old, but we all had fun and we were extremely excited to be part of this gardening venture. At least 30 new plants will welcome the visitors at the Emily Oaks Nature Center next spring. The Leukemia Research Foundation (LRF) funds worldwide medical research, offers patient financial assistance and support programs for those affected by leukemia and other blood cancers. LRF is made up of many chapters (mostly in the Chicago area) that host various fundraising events throughout the year. We helped the organization by rebranding their social media outlets to provide a consistent strategy across all platforms and be more recognizable. We provided various templates that they can implement for future posts about upcoming events, as well as highlighting researchers and doctors affiliated with the cause.
Dallas OfficeThe SPCA of Texas is an organization that the Dallas office is passionate about supporting. This year, we are thrilled that we not only get to support them at their annual “Bark and Build” competition happening later this year, but we got to spend the morning learning and volunteering at their shelter.
Denver OfficeThe Denver office has a wonderful day helping the goats, chickens, horses, cattle, ducks, sheep, donkey and one very stubborn pig at the Urban Farm. The Urban Farm is an organization that started by providing opportunities for underprivileged youth to gain experience helping care for horses and learning to ride. The organization has expanded to offer exposure to all types of farm animals, to learn about how animals provide us with food and to participate in 4H activities through an affiliation with CSU (Colorado State University). The day started with a tour of the farm, including the hydroponics lab, a Japanese style greenhouse with evaporative cooling, and all the animal pens. Our group painted two chicken houses, fixed and relocated a fence so the lone pig could have their own space, watered all the animals, and repaired a broken playhouse door. The day was very fulfilling and we had an amazing time together!
Houston OfficeEvery year, Houston Food Bank distributes over 122 million nutritious meals through its network of 1,500 community partners in southeast Texas, feeding 800,000 individuals. This past Friday morning, the Houston Office took time to give back to this amazing organization.
Los Angeles OfficeThe Los Angeles offices volunteered at the LA Food Bank, an organization that provides meal kits and other essentials to children, seniors and other individuals in need throughout the County of Los Angeles. Community support enables the Food Bank to serve more than 300,000 people on a monthly basis. We gathered to successfully assemble over 1,792 meal kits that will be distributed to local food banks in the area.
New York City OfficeThe NYC office headed to Queens Community House (QCH) to pack more than 60 donated backpacks with essential school supply items for K-5 students. The QCH is a multi-site, multi-service settlement house that serves diverse neighborhoods throughout the borough. In addition to packing backpacks, volunteers toured the QCH Forest Hills location and learned about the many services offered to residents. Thank you to all who donated backpacks and school supplies as well as time spent organizing, transporting, and packing the items!
Pittsburgh OfficeThe Pittsburgh office volunteered our services to the Pittsburgh Food Bank. We repackaged and labeled bags of Special K cereal that were donated. Our group of 13 people worked on 6,000 pounds of cereal (15 pallets).
San Diego/Irvine OfficesWe combined San Diego and Irvine offices to serve Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin, SoCal. Our mission was to sort moer than 10 giant crates of toys, books and costumes into age-specific crates for their events. Quote from the Mission: “We are so appreciative that your team sorted through the toys for us! The toys will be used at our annual Christmas event called ‘Magic at the Mission.’ During this special event, our parents get to ‘shop’ among those toys for presents for their kiddos. Having the toys sorted ahead of time allows us to prepare for a successful event in December.”
San Francisco OfficeOur team worked with two other organizations at the San Francisco Food Bank, where we boxed up 1,008 boxes of non-perishable, government-funded food for elderly residents on fixed incomes within the San Francisco region. Without volunteers, the organization would not be able to maintain the operating budget and provide as much as they do. Visit the food bank’s website for additional information about their influence on our community.
St. Louis OfficeThe Habitat for Humanity ReStore is dedicated to reusing and repurposing donated goods and diverting items from landfills in order to lessen our impact on the environment and ultimately help further the local home-building efforts of Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis. Our team showed off our wide range of skills, from dusting, sweeping and organizing, to deconstructing a sofa! We did so well that we were asked to clean up brush piles from the parking lot. Gateway Greening is a community of gardeners, farmers, neighbors, friends, and volunteers building deeply rooted, resilient urban communities throughout St. Louis. Our team powered through rain and mud to put our gardening skills to use by planting, weeding, mulching, and other landscape maintenance. Youth In Need is a non-profit organization that provides residential group homes, homeless street outreach, early childhood education, infant, child and family development, youth and family counseling and support groups, teen parent services and foster care case management for children of all ages and their families. Our team provided breakfast, spent the morning doing dishes and interacting with the youth by playing games (Pictionary) and watching movies (“Guardians of the Galaxy”). We then got a chance to tour the facility and learn all about the great services that Youth In Need had to offer.
Toronto OfficeToronto team members supported the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre that has been providing emergency shelter and a warm welcome for refugee families from all ethnic, racial or religious backgrounds for more than two decades. Approximately 300 homeless refugee claimants (100 families) from war-torn countries worldwide arrive at the centre each year. The centre needed assistance filling knapsacks with school supplies and additional help in fundraising to purchase new items. In the three weeks leading up to the Community Service Day, we held a daily breakfast buffet in the office to raise funds to purchase knapsacks and supplies. It was a team effort, with some cooking special treats – breakfast sandwiches and crepes – others contributing items for the buffet – cereal, fresh fruit, yogurt and, of course, purchasing from the buffet regularly. We were able to raise more than $250 and arrived at the centre with our knapsacks and supplies in tow and spent the morning filling them up with age/grade appropriate items. It was a very fulfilling experience assisting this active centre and making a difference in our community.
Washington, DC OfficeIn the DC office, we partnered with The Clothesline for Arlington Kids to help create a first-of-its-kind retail environment for K-12 students in the Arlington, VA affordable housing system. In order to open before the new school year, we volunteered to get the store ready. The team performed tasks including painting the front door and railings, hanging lights and mirrors, designing and hanging pegboard accessory displays, designing and hanging curtain rods and accessories for the changing rooms, and sorting donated clothing for display.
Understanding the Philosophy of Care in the Design of Behavioral Health Spaces
Spotlight on Khalid Dyer: Urban Alliance Intern in the Baltimore Office
It’s only been two months since Khalid Dyer graduated from Patterson High School, but you would never believe this after looking at his resumé. At just 19 years old, Khalid has already completed two internships, is enrolled to start at Hudson County Community College in the fall, and has post-graduation plans to transfer to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
Before spending his summer interning in our Baltimore office, Khalid followed the path of most high school students: He had a part-time job, played on the school basketball team, and hung out with friends as much as possible.
All of this changed his senior year when a few members of Urban Alliance (UA) came to speak at his high school and kickstarted his internship journey. Urban Alliance is a D.C.-based nonprofit that provides high school students with paid professional work experience with its partner companies.
This is CannonDesign’s first year as a corporate partner of UA, and we are thankful to Briana Jones for facilitating this arrangement and laying the groundwork for increased involvement in the coming years. Briana served as Khalid’s immediate mentor throughout his internship, alongside Erin Crowley and Ashley Roe; together they created an internship program that Khalid described as not only informative but necessary.
After meeting the team at Urban Alliance, Khalid applied to the program and completed a six-week business skills workshop to prepare for his internship. He was mutually matched with CannonDesign based on his interest in design (he plans on majoring in graphic arts for his first degree and fashion design for his second) and started at the office in July. Throughout his internship, he learned the ins and outs of Revit and SketchUp while making meaningful contributions to multiple Baltimore-based projects. Khalid brainstormed the potential needs of all members of the Baltimore office in drawing up a sitemap for an office relocation planned for the near future, and sat in on many meetings for projects throughout the office. Once, while attending a shortlist interview, Khalid impressed the entire interview team with his depth of knowledge and connections to a few of the project members from a past internship.
Khalid came into his internship unsure of how involved he would be in the design process and how relevant the experience would be to his career goals. At the end of the program, however, he had nothing but positive things to say about his time with the Baltimore team at his UA graduation presentation. Of the 25 members in his UA group, Khalid was one of a proud few who had remained in the program and excelled.
From everyone at the firm: Congratulations, Khalid, and thank you to our Baltimore office for paving the way to what we hope becomes a longstanding tradition of Urban Alliance interns!
Learn more about CannonDesign Life >
Abbie Clary Authors AthenaInsight Article on Consumer-Driven Strategies for Community Hospitals
CannonDesign Baltimore Office Adopts a Local School
Last year, our Baltimore office partnered with Brehms Lane Elementary, a local charter school operated by the nonprofit organization Afya Baltimore Inc. We primed students with a STEAM Career Day to jump-start our endeavor to inspire design in their everyday activities. Over the next few months, the office planned and reworked an architectural-design curriculum that overlaid with their STEAM resource class. We posed the same challenges to ourselves as last year: Can we inspire 48 students to pursue a technical or design profession?!
Not exactly! But we could make do with 24 fifth-graders! We scaled down plans to ensure we kept a personable volunteer-to-student ratio, as well as a limited interruption from the students’ regular school programming.
Our curriculum was five sessions. The 2017-18 year started with a collaborative visioning session. While we had a framework and key lessons in place, we wanted the students to be empowered and lead their own path of design. This reactive position led to many insights and ideas that we would never have considered! We challenged them to re-think how they interact with their spaces, and what defines their surroundings.
“What are your least favorite spaces?” Among many other queries in the survey, we pitched this question to the class. Unsurprisingly, students answered with physicians’ offices and their library; however, they answered not for the reasons expected! They noted that their library lacked the organization and qualities that other public libraries provided. This could be attributed to the physical space, book selection, human personnel… and many other factors, but hey! We could work with this!
Final project = Library Dioramas! We ended the year with a return to the physical world. Dioramas served as the best method to showcase their new knowledge of architectural principles and design skills. We spent weeks collecting shoeboxes, cutting collage pieces, and 3d printing furniture to prepare for this culmination! Students assembled their dioramas in our last session. These would be later presented to the community showcase in the month following!