Sign In, Renew, Sign Up

Search AIA

Search AIA Go

The Power House, Restoration/Renovation | Notes of Interest

These offices for the design architects' firm occupy a long-abandoned power house, constructed in 1928, part of the Municipal Service Building complex that still occupies an entire block of downtown St. Louis. The Power House component of the complex, designated as a landmark by the National Historic Register, had confounded developers over the years who struggled with its tall volume but relatively small footprint.

The design challenge was to accommodate 32,000 square-feet of office, conference and support space for approximately 120 employees in a building with 19,000 square-feet of floor area, but over 400,000 cubic-feet of volume. New floors needed to be added within the building's massive volume to accommodate the firm's program, but somehow this introduction of multiple stories had to avoid compromising the spatial integrity of its interior space, and most importantly, the 26-foot-tall, arched, revival-style windows. At the same time, the design needed to preserve each individual's connection to the exterior from the workspace. Lastly, it needed to meet and reflect the firm's desire for a new way of working: one that was intuitive, flexible and open.

This solution conceives of a simple plan that occupies the south and west interior elevations. Behind this plane are support services and spaces (exit stairs, toilet rooms, kitchenettes, elevator) as well as closed office functions (private offices, small meeting rooms, copy/work rooms); occupying the main volume are three levels of open studios.

The second and third levels were added to massive existing steel plate columns—no vertical structure was added. Crisp, modern workspace is juxtaposed against rusted columns and glazed brick. The new floors are held away from the north and east elevations, which contain the dramatic Romanesque windows facing out to the city. The windows afford a significant amount of daylight and views to the surrounding neighborhood. The gallery space is programmed as an event space and a way to engage the community as never before possible.

The building's exterior shell and original structural steel were fundamentally sound. Its "revival style exterior and fine terra cotta detailing have been fully restored. The interior was fully remediated – removing toxic pigeon droppings and lead paint that covered the floors and steelwork. Other spaces in the building include a roof-level conference room, a break room, a state-of-the-art model shop, and materials and design libraries.

Last but not least, this impressive project—where old meets new—has involved immense strides in sustainability. This adaptive reuse has achieved LEED Gold certification.

Additional Credits

  • General Contractor: R.G. Ross
  • Structural Engineer: Ruofei Sun, Ph.D., PE, SE, LEED
  • Interior Furnishings: Centro Modern Furnishings
  • Environmental Services: Sitex Environmental Services
  • Photo Credit: © Gayle Babcock/Architectural Imageworks, LLC; © Patti Gabriel Photography

The Power House, Restoration/Renovation

  • Architect: Cannon Design
  • Owner: Cannon Design
  • Location: St.Louis

Jury Comments

An interesting dialogue between present and past…The project maintains, preserves and reestablishes the integrity of the existing, historic building while creating modern, attractive, and energy efficient interior spaces that accommodate user needs.

A balanced and pleasing chiaroscuro effect is produced between new materials reflecting light and the existing materiality of the project that absorbs light.

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

Footer Navigation

Copyright & Privacy

  • © The American Institute of Architects
  • Privacy