Desert Belle

Janis Leonard Associates transform the Hanny's Building in downtown Phoenix

by Tash 25 October 2012
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    The Hanny's building in downtown Phoenix represents the "belle epoque" of international style in the desert southwest. A former department store, built in 1947, its eclectic nature, once a premier example of the modernism and a catalyst for similar developments in the downtown area, was abandoned over 30 years after its inception. Few such historic examples stand today in this urban centre, yet now representing a burgeoning renaissance in downtown Phoenix that sees once overlooked architectural ghosts resurrected. This four story building has been transformed into an upscale eatery of the same name by prolific restaurateur Karl Kopp (also of Bar89, in Soho New York City, Elsa's on the Park in

    Milwaukee and AZ88 in Scottsdale, Arizona); remaining true to its storied past, Kopp needed a design vision that would bring the building from its dusty enclave and transformed into a two-level restaurant, with bar, floor and mezzanine seating.

    Transforming Hanny's into an upscale eatery was not an easy task, yet Janis Leonard Design Associates approached this with ease- having worked with Kopp on his restaurants (as well as rotating art installations in said spaces), Leonard captured its vintage atmosphere that harkens back to the early forties as much of the original features have been restored. Along with restoration, the building also features updates through modernist styling, and are indeed punctuated by the many hidden treasures found during construction. For example one can now walk onto the glass floor of an abandoned elevator shaft and have a view of the full building height from roof to basement. Further, evidence of its brutal past as an abandoned site remains if only as proof of its layered history; Leonard exposed the rough-hewn concrete of a staircase core located to the immediate right of the main entrance. This can be seen through the glass panes that envelop the main dining area, the staircase, acting as a totem to its past, a relic standing proud and on display for those inside and outside the space.

    The ground floor, with its open plan and two-story-high ceiling marked by a curvilinear floating soffit, already felt natural as a restaurant, and Leonard updated it by adding a modern kitchen. On the mezzanine, Leonard gutted the second floor changing rooms, which circumscribed the space, to create extra seating and restrooms that feature as if they were designed for the film 2001 Space Odyssey. She also carefully rehabilitated sections of the interior that had been damaged-during the store's stint as a fire-testing facility for the City of Phoenix-with custom-built bricks to supplement the originals.

    Hanny's found its renaissance through (re)adaptation and continues its iconic style and relevance well into the 21st century, while, in parallel, contributing to the overall development and (re)intensification of the once forgotten downtown Phoenix city core.

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