Recycle and reinvent

06 Jul 2011

1910 brick structure in Raleigh's Historic Depot District given new life by sculptural fin

LA-based Brooks + Scarpa (formerly Pugh + Scarpa) and local practice Clearscapes last week celebrated the official opening of Raleigh Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), toasting the transformation of a quirky redbrick volume in the city’s Historic Depot District.

The building’s legacy stretches back to 1910 when it was constructed for the Allen Forge & Welding Company; it was extended for grocers The Brogden Produce Company in 1927, during which time a railroad spur was installed linking the facility to a nearby station to ensure the smooth transfer of perishable goods. This lasting reminder is still intact to this day.

The collaborating practices have altered this hardwearing volume with a folded external fin, creating a welcoming porchway which extends into a tasteful sculpture garden. This new roofing system dramatically alters the look and feel of the complex, tailoring its classic form to the needs of a Contemporary Art Museum whilst retaining the eccentric characteristics so intrinsic to its story.

In bringing the historic building up to date, much thought has gone into retaining many of its existing features. The designers explain: “Located on the east side of the existing building, the lobby is a modern re-interpretation of the old loading dock, moving people, goods and art deep into the central core of the main exhibition space.

“This asymmetrical cross axis was created to juxtapose and complement the symmetry of the old historic building. The two buildings collapse together and fuse into one structure. Old and new become one. The space provokes a kind of indelible wonder while still affording traditional values to the people who visit.”

Tall ceilings provide a dramatic backdrop for the works in the Main Gallery, within which original metal trusses remain exposed and a new ventilation and heating system has been installed for the comfort of visitors and protection of artistic works. These elevated ceilings also enable large volumes of natural light to illuminate the interior space, as sunlight penetrates through an original lunette window and into a new basement gallery.

CAM’s Director of Development, Rosemary Wyche furthers: “We have three galleries. The Main Gallery is our largest and can accommodate 499 people for a variety of events. A second gallery, the Street Gallery, appropriate named for its proximity to West Martin Street, is located adjacent to the Main Gallery but separated by the international slot cut in the concrete floor to create a deep trench to expose the basement level to the Main Gallery.

“The Street Gallery is accessible by a glass and metal bridge spanning the trench, providing views down into the third gallery below. This allows the basement, traditionally separated from the upper levels, to be visually fused into the gallery space above.”

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