U Kentucky College of Design Shares Plans for Tobacco Warehouse Renovation

The University of Kentucky has revealed the plans for its new College of Design (CoD). The institution intends to renovate a century-old tobacco warehouse and turn it into a "vibrant and interactive learning space for design students." The design was done by Studio Gang, in collaboration with Louisville-based architect-of-record K. Norman Berry Associates (KNBA).

As the university explained, by placing the college into the Reynolds Building, an old facility situated at a "prominent" entry into the city of Lexington, the structure itself will "serve as a nimble artifact that teaches students about architecture, interiors, historic preservation, landscape architecture, urban design, product design and biomedical engineering — all in a 21st-century, polycultural learning environment."

U Kentucky College of Design Shares Plans for Tobacco Warehouse Renovation

The Reynolds Building as it stands today. Source: University of Kentucky

According to the designers, the plans build on the structure's 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 will leverage the timber column grid to demarcate each studio, and use mobile pin-up walls for flexibility, along with custom furniture designed and fabricated by the college's students.

U Kentucky College of Design Shares Plans for Tobacco Warehouse Renovation

The lintel over the main entry at the Reynolds Building. Source: University of Kentucky

In certain areas, the building will be cut away to create new gathering spaces, sightlines, "abundant daylight" and vertical circulation. A new, steel stair will be inserted into the center of the building, surrounded by shared spaces and amenities — including a fabrication lab, café and lecture hall.

Outside, a new fabrication dock will provide space for large-scale making and displays. New trees and a structural canopy will provide shade and contribute to passive cooling inside the building. Geothermal wells and other green strategies will also be used.

U Kentucky College of Design Shares Plans for Tobacco Warehouse Renovation

A student model of the Reynolds Building. Source: University of Kentucky

"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, founding partner of Studio Gang, in a statement. "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 renovation of the Reynolds Building for the CoD continues a firm legacy of technical expertise combined with sensitive rehabilitation of structures that contributes to our collective cultural, educational, aesthetic and inspirational legacies — all of the things that quite literally make us who we are," added Bob Haffermann, managing principal of KNBA.

"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," noted College of Design Dean Mitzi Vernon.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.