Studio Gang to transform former warehouse into Kentucky university building

Studio Gang will transform the former Reynolds Building, a century-old tobacco warehouse, into a sustainable new home for the University of Kentucky College of Design (CoD). Image courtesy Studio Gang
Studio Gang will transform the former Reynolds Building, a century-old tobacco warehouse, into a sustainable new home for the University of Kentucky College of Design (CoD).
Image courtesy Studio Gang

The University of Kentucky College of Design (CoD) has unveiled Studio Gang’s design for the reinvented Reynolds Building. Working collaboratively with Louisville-based architect of record K Norman Berry Associates, Studio Gang will transform the century-old tobacco warehouse into an interactive learning space for design students.

The college has waited 50 years for a building opportunity to allow their programs to grow, diversify, and cross-pollinate, the college said in a press release. The 12,263-m2 (132,000-sf) Reynolds building, situated at one of the most prominent entries into the city of Lexington, seeks to serve as an artifact to teach students about architecture, interiors, historic preservation, landscape architecture, urban design, product design, and biomedical engineering—all in a 21st century, polycultural learning environment.

“I appreciate the cultural approach and language Studio Gang built into the project. We move now from thinly linked monocultures to a polycultural environment and an adaptive reuse opus symbolizing the sustainable future for which we must advocate,” said Mitzi Vernon, CoD dean.

“At a time when it is essential to conserve resources and decarbonize, the work of reinventing existing buildings to serve new purposes has never been more critical,” said Jeanne Gang, FAIA, Studio Gang founding partner. “The Reynolds project demonstrates this idea, and takes it beyond environmental necessity, showing how re-use can also be a satisfying, creative act of design and making.”

The design builds on Reynolds’ existing qualities, including open floorplates and a repetitive structural grid, to maximize interaction among people and disciplines, and expand opportunities for making and experimentation.

Open studio spaces leverage the timber column grid to flexibly demarcate each studio, reinforced by mobile pin-up walls and custom furniture designed and fabricated by CoD students. Existing level changes in the building are used to create clerestories, skylights, and a flexible, double-height lecture hall. In certain areas, the existing structure is strategically cut away to create new gathering spaces, sightlines, abundant daylight, and vertical circulation. A new, steel stair is inserted into the center of the building, surrounded by shared spaces and amenities—including the fabrication lab, café, and lecture hall—encouraging students, faculty, and visitors to gather and mix. Outside, a new fabrication dock creates space for large-scale making and displays these explorations to the wider university. New trees and a structural canopy provide shade and contribute to passive cooling inside the building. Geothermal wells and other green strategies contribute to the sensible deployment of environmentally conscious elements that fit within the university’s defined project construction budget.

“This move to the former Reynolds Building allows the college to build a sustainable and innovative atmosphere for the evolution of design education and future generations of students while providing us the room to grow in both scope and size,” said Vernon.

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