When it came to repurposing a 1,180- square-metre building in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal district to create The Mercury Store, a performing arts theatre and rehearsal space, CO Adaptive Architecture had some tough acts to follow. The heavy-industrial site originally served as a metal foundry before being converted into a warehouse and, more recently, a series of art studios and offices.
The design firm’s ovation-worthy strategy was to place the 1902 building’s original character front and centre — albeit with a few significant updates. The end result is akin to a contemporary revival of a classic production, preserving the original structure’s soul yet also making a renewed case for its enduring relevance.
Signature elements like the building’s masonry shell and double A-frame roof trusses remain in place, but they are now joined by cross-laminated timber floor panels and glulam beams and columns. (In a notable milestone, this project represents New York City’s first application of mass timber in an adaptive re-use building.) Outside, new aluminum cladding ties the arts venue in with the area’s industrial identity.
Another big move involved reconfiguring the building’s layout from a highly compartmentalized interior into an expansive environment. By removing half of the ground floor, the designers sank the main performance space below grade, creating an especially dramatic double-height area. For added flexibility, floor-to-ceiling accordion doors allow for the division of this bright zone into two acoustically sealed rooms. And, at the back of this lower level, generous staircase seating introduces a casual social hub while also creating a link to the upstairs breakout rooms.
Making a flawless transition from a turn-of-the-century industrial facility to a modern-day cultural venue, this building deserves an award for its incredible range — and CO Adaptive Architecture deserves full credit for its expert direction.
Team Robert Johnston and Ruth Mandl with Leon Frazier and Sam Bowstead (CO Adaptive Architecture); Brian Barkovitz, Alex Schwartz and Jason Driggs (ABS Engineering); Nathanial Bergan (A Degree of Freedom Structural Engineers); Bruno Cardenas (Charcoal Blue); JP Bedell (SDA Lighting); Jenny Uchida (Two Twelve); Arthur Pearsall (Yorke Construction)
CO Adaptive Architecture preserved the original building’s structure while making a renewed case for its enduring relevance as part of this adaptive re-use project.