Armstrong Oil and Gas | Notes of Interest

This adaptive re-use of an early-1900’s industrial machine shop with a rich and colorful history launches a new identity for an established local business in lower downtown Denver. Charged with bringing new life to an underutilized building, the design team planned the enclosed program around existing elements in place and created generous, sophisticated spaces filled with daylight, natural ventilation and views to the Denver skyline. Maintaining the existing shell and structure of the building eliminated tons of waste from local landfills while preserving a venerable building that contributes to the historic nature of its context.

Arguably the most notable aspect of this project is its sheer reverence towards the raw materials and foundations that once composed the original building. Each element is treated with restraint and care, in a way that highlights the simple, raw beauty of each beam; each imperfection; each original component. Both structurally and materially, this adaptive re-use works within the original traits of the building, while at the same time adding life and lightness.

In keeping with the historic manufacturing roots of the building, the structural steel is architecturally expressed throughout the building. Wood-framing, brick, and steel were shell-blasted and sealed to express their original purity. Selection of the newer materials also fit within the same catalogue of existing industrial types: steel, brick, concrete and wood. Tipping a hat to the original materials, a firm contrast was maintained between their rustic, shell-blasted feel and the sharper, painted look of the newer elements. Beyond the mere salvation of a few original objects, the design went over and above, minimizing waste by incorporating discarded resources in the project as well. A lovely example of this is seen in the creation of the building’s central courtyard: after the center section of the original roof was stripped away and all timber beams and wooden decking were removed to reveal the steel frame, this wood was re-purposed into many of the architect-designed and fabricated custom interior furnishings.

To bring life to the space, the renovation brings new levels of circulation and transparency. The introduction of an interior courtyard sends daylight throughout the entire space, and translucent materials separating many of the workspaces capitalize on this natural light while balancing an element of privacy. The new office building consists of two main volumes and includes a breezeway, a conference room, a waiting area, an employee lounge, an open-air bridge, a roof terrace, outdoor meeting spaces, entertaining spaces and a beautifully redone penthouse office, complete with steel trusses and a revamped cupola vent from the original structure. Primary vertical circulation is provided by two folded steel plate stairs that cantilever off of a central tube structure. A new catwalk is suspended on steel rods from the existing roof framing and links the upper lounge and second floor offices through the beautiful, double-height space of the room below.

The adaptive re-use of a 1900's machine shop celebrates the spirit, craft, and materiality of its original program. The transformed spaces are organized around a new landscaped courtyard created by stripping away the center section of the existing roof to bring in natural light and ventilation to the interior spaces. A gated entry court on the street front acts as a threshold to the courtyard framed by two brick volumes containing the building’s public spaces on one side and office spaces on the other.

Additional Credits

  • Architect of Record: Bothwell Davis George Architects, Inc.
  • General Contractor: Sprung Construction
  • Engineer: McGlamery Structural Group; M.E. Group (MEP Engineer)
  • Lighting Consultant: Fisher Marantz Stone
  • Photo Credit: © Frank Ooms Photography

Armstrong Oil and Gas

Jury Comments

Here, understated materials achieve elegance through superior detailing and craftsmanship.

This design stands out for its thoughtful space-making and through its handling of materials thoughtfully-chosen to respond to the character of the original building.

This project’s expression of the best of what the original machine shop building had to offer is superbly celebrated with the architecturally honest palate of brick, steel, concrete and glass

2011 Institute Honor Awards for Interior Architecture Jury

  • John Ronan, AIA, (Chair)
  • John Ronan Architects
  • Chicago
  • Jaime Canaves, FAIA
  • Florida International University-
  • School of Architecture
  • Miami
  • Margaret Kittinger, AIA
  • Beyer Blinder Belle Architects
  • New York City
  • Brian Lewis
  • The Capital Group Companies
  • Irvine, Calif.
  • Brian Malarkey, AIA
  • Kirksey
  • Houston

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