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 >
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.
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.