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Yale Students Present Downtown Distillery Designs for Louisville

Design by John Lacy

The students from the Yale School of Architecture who visited Louisville in February have unveiled their designs for a distillery downtown.

The students studied the region on their visit, with a specific focus on Louisville’s downtown and the bourbon industry. Their task was to each design a distillery that could stand near First and Main streets, across from the Whiskey Row buildings.

Bringing the traditionally rural practice of distilling bourbon to an urban environment was only one challenge the students faced. During their visit, professor and architect Deborah Berke told WFPL “I think they’ll be torn from wanting to make something that’s very modern that reflects distilling technology and the 20th century environment they want to be a part of and responding to the historic context.”

The designs also had to follow building codes and laws and balance the infrastructure realities of the city with designs that could bring large trucks, pollution and other side effects of manufacturing downtown.

Local News Uncategorized

Yale Students’ Designs Balance History, Modernism, Environment and Industry

In Louisville, Whiskey Row now refers to a single strip of buildings. But 100 years ago, Whiskey Row took up most of Main Street.

Most companies distilled bourbon in rural areas, but they took up block after block in downtown Louisville with business offices and storage. Prohibition wiped many of them out. Later in the century, suburbanization finished the job with many other urban industries.

“If you bring manufacturing back into the urban fabric, there might be more workers to repopulate and reinvigorate the downtown,” says Yale School of Architecture student Rafael Ng. Ng and a group of his classmates visited Louisville this week to study the bourbon industry and design an urban distillery that could stand on the block across from the current Whiskey Row buildings at 1st and Main streets.

But creating jobs is just one thing an urban distillery can do.

“For each student, their prerogative might be different. There’s an opportunity to celebrate the act and spectacle of producing whiskey,” says Ng.

Local News

Yale Students Arrive in Louisville to Design Urban Distillery

A group of Yale architecture students is in Louisville this week to plan and design an urban distillery.

The visit is part of Yale’s advanced design studios program, in which classes visit various locations around the world and plan relevant architecture. Another class this year will visit Europe and design an opera house. The Louisville team is led by Deborah Berke, who was a chief architect for 21C museum and hotel.

The team will study distilleries and the Whiskey Row buildings downtown. They will then design a distillery area across the street from Whiskey Row. The design is a project and isn’t meant to be built. But it’s also not meant to simply be a distillery either.

“The idea that a city could latch on to something that’s already associated with it and take that forward into the future I think is what every American city needs to be considering,” says Berke, adding that there are three factors driving the project. “One is of course renewed interest in jobs. The second is the re-strengthening American cities. The third is this growing and fabulous interest in local and artisanal foods and other manufactured goods.”

The team will leave the city on Thursday. Their design will be complete in late April.

Berke says the designs will follow all existing rules and building codes and could inspire other local projects.

Local News

Yale Students to Plan Urban Distillery in Louisville

A group of students from the Yale School of Architecture will visit Louisville this year to design an urban distillery downtown, though the project won’t necessarily result in the distillery being built.

The visit is part of Yale’s advanced design studios program. In addition to Kentucky, students in other studios will visit Venice, Denmark, Finland, Los Angeles and Switzerland. The latter trip will be led by Frank Gehry.

The Louisville team will be led by Deborah Berke, who was one of the lead designers of 21c. The students will visit various distilleries in the area, as well as in Columbus, Indiana, Cincinnati and New York. They will then design an urban distillery on the block across from Whiskey Row.

According to a statement announcing the project, the students will look for innovation through architecture in the spirits industry and offer “an opportunity to rethink urban manufacturing in the 21st Century.”

From the course outline:

We will study the logistics of material handling, the overlapping paths of goods, workers, visitors, waste, and traffic within the distillery and the city. We will confront the demands of energy consumption, water-use, hygiene, and the pungent odors for which distilleries are infamous. Students will be asked to consider the performative requirements for the architectural envelope in regards to scale, day-light, energy-use, interior climate, brand-identity, and transparency.

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Effort Underway To Preserve Louisville’s Iconic Shotgun Houses

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Early next month, a panel of preservationists will select a house in Louisville to be rehabilitated under a new project called Preservation S.O.S.—Save Our Shotguns.

It’s a style of house that symbolizes many of Louisville’s older neighborhoods.

There are many variations, but shotgun houses typically have a long, rectangular floor plan: one room wide, three to five rooms in a row with doorways often on the same side of the house.

One common belief is that the name shotgun house refers to the ability to fire a shotgun cleanly from the front through the back door.

The shotgun style likely made its way into the U.S. from the West Indies and became popular in the South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, offering affordable housing in working class areas.

In Louisville, they’re a part of the fabric of neighborhoods like Germantown, Butchertown, Smoketown and Portland, but some are showing their age, and Portland in particular has a significant number of houses in distress (top two photos).

“In this area, you’re seeing a lot of blight when it comes to vacant properties, many of which are the shotgun houses, and I think that’s what inspired me to try to come forward and do something and start a program that would really make an impact,” said Marianne Zickhur, executive director of Preservation Louisville, which is spearheading the S.O.S. program. Zickhur grew up in the Portland neighborhood.

Zickhur and says shotguns are popular as starter homes for many young buyers. Others like how their simple design lends itself to fix-up and addition projects.

State of Affairs

Preservation Law

Who doesn’t love the look of historic areas like Cherokee Triangle and the Iron Quarter? They both bring out the personality of our city and bring in tourism. But how are these sites saved and preserved in the first place? In reality, it’s a continuing behind-the-scenes battleground between many differing stakeholders. Join us Tuesday as we discuss preservation law and what it means for Louisville.  Photo by Joel Neild

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Green Design Topic of Exhibit, Forum

The Speed Art Museum has opened a new exhibit that coincides with a public forum about ecology and design. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

“4 Salvaged Boxes” is the exhibit that was designed by wHY Architecture. The firm designed the Grand Rapids Art Museum, which was the world’s first new art museum building certified as energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. The firm is also designing a renovation of the Speed Museum.

Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY Architecture says Louisville is only the second American city to host the exhibit.

“It travels as traveling crates by themselves but opens up — just like cabinets of curiosities — that display the models, drawing, videos and all the materials of green architecture,” Yantrasast says.

The exhibit focuses on ideas in construction and architecture that work to lessen negative impact to the environment. Yantrasast says designing an art museum renovation demands attention to some distinctive factors.

“It’s not just that the building needs to perform to the highest efficiency,” he says. “You have to make people recognize and understand the importance of nature as well as art.”

Yantrasast will speak on a panel Friday with leaders of several Louisville projects that aim to be environmentally sound. They include Dan Jones of 21st Century Parks, Inc. and Shirley Willihnganz of the University of Louisville.

Yantrasast says “green architecture” shouldn’t be reduced to a marketing term.

“It’s good that ‘green’ has become such a topic,” he says,  “but I think we have to see beyond that — that it should be a way of life; it should not be a trend.”

He says wHY Architecture and the Speed Museum will have a design for the museum by the end of the year.

Arts and Humanities Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Speed Museum Chooses wHY Architecture

Click here for Elizabeth Kramer’s interview with The Speed Art Museum’s Charles Venable and wHY Architecture’s principal architect, Kulapat Yantrasast.

The Speed Art Museum has chosen an architectural firm to design the expansion of its building on the University of Louisville campus. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

A Los Angeles-based firm — wHY Architecture — will design the expansion of the Speed Art Museum. The decision is the latest in a multi-year process that has involved staff and board members interviewing many architects and visiting museums around the world.

Museum director Charles Venable says wHY Architecture came with an impressive resume.

“They have enormous amount of experience working on specialized museum buildings,” Venable says. “And, practically speaking, museums are complicated places.”

Venable says that after reviewing many architectural firms, representatives from the Speed found that wHY Architecture understood the problems the museum has in its current building and that it proposed possible and appealing solutions for the interior and exterior spaces that could attract people to and through the gallery space.

Venable says the expansion will be an expensive as well as notable project.

“Clearly, this will be one of the most important architectural expansions in the history of Louisville,” he says “So, we’re talking about something in the tens of millions of dollars.”

The firm designed The Grand Rapids Art Museum, the world’s first certified “green” museum, and has redesigned gallery space at the Art Institute of Chicago. Venable says a design should be unveiled later this year and construction should start next year. The new space should open in late 2012.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Museum Chooses Eight Firms as Finalists for Expansion Design

The Speed Art Museum has selected eight architectural firms as finalists to design an expansion of its home. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

The list* includes firms from Chicago, New York, Copenhagen, Oslo and Tokyo. The museum will charge one of them with designing an addition containing exhibition space and room for educational activities.

By early next year, the museum will choose the finalist, who will have to get to know Louisville, says the Speed Museum’s director Charles Venable.

“Before we ask them to draw one line on a piece of paper, we really want them to come to Louisville and spend a lot of time, talking to us about the city, about the site, about this community, about the dreams and aspirations of this institution — and also what makes the perfect visitor experience of a museum,” Venable says.

He says the finalists were chosen because of their experiences on similar projects.

“We very much wanted architects who were capable of some how combining a new bit of architecture to an old piece of architecture, taking a series of older buildings and doing something new and interesting, but not needing to have a blank slate, because we don’t have a blank slate,” he says.

Venable says the addition should be built by 2012.


Bernard Tschumi Architects with offices in New York and Paris. Noted recent project is the New Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece.

Bjarke Ingels Group in Copenhagen, Denmark. Noted current project is the Helsingor Maritime Museum in Denmark, which will transform an old dry dock into a modern-day museum. 

Gluckman Mayner Architects of New York. Noted for its transformation of many older museum buildings into modern spaces and the Mori Arts Center in Tokyo with its distinct use of glass creating transparency. 

Henning Larsen Architects from Copenhagen, Denmark.  Noted for its addition to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum and the new Opera in Copenhagen, considered one of the most modern opera houses in the world.

SANAA whose office is in Tokyo. Noted for its use of structural glass in the recent expansion at the Toledo Museum of Art and its design for the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. 

Snøhetta AS with offices in New York and Oslo, Norway. Noted for its design for the new Oslo Opera House that marries the look of one of Norway’s icebergs and the rich tradition of timber interiors. 

Studio Gang Architects from Chicago and Brooklyn. Noted for the curvaceous high-rise known as “Aqua” and the SOS Children’s Village in Chicago, which combines form and function for an economy of space.

wHY Architecture in Los Angeles. Noted for the new Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan, which is the only museum in the world to be awarded a LEED Gold certification for its “Green” environmental impact and architectural elegance.

Arts and Humanities In-Depth News

The Architectural Landscape of Columbus, Indiana

The architecture in Columbus, Indiana, makes it one of the country’s most important cities — that’s according to the American Institute of Architects. Native son J. Irwin Miller owned the city’s largest employer, the Cummins Engine Company, and helped pay the design fees for buildings by world renowned architects. Miller died four years ago this week. Now, some people in Columbus are questioning if new construction is spoiling the legacy he left. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

J. Irwin Miller was smitten with modern architecture and his passion propelled the construction in Columbus of more than 60 buildings designed by internationally known architects.

In the 1930s, he tapped Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen to design a new home for the First Christian Church. Finished in 1942, this first Modernist church in the country is a simple box shape made of limestone, taupe brick and glass.

Twelve years later, Miller extended his influence to civic buildings. He set up the Cummins Foundation which worked with developers to identify world-famous architects. Since 1954, it has paid $25 million in design fees for civic buildings in town.

The first project was the Lillian Schmitt Elementary School, which opened in 1957.

The classrooms here have A-shaped ceilings that mirror the roofs of nearby houses. The octagon-shaped library is lined with planks of wood and topped off with skylights that flood the stacks with sunlight.

Thirty-year-old Kelli Adams has a son in the third grade at the school. She remembers when her sister went to school here and how she used to ride her bike exploring the city. Back then, Adams didn’t really understand that architecture made Columbus significant.

“It was just a playground for me,” Adams says. “And then growing up, now, I appreciate, you know, the artists that did make somewhat of their name here and make Columbus kind of the architectural drawing point that it is.”

Adams used to play under the large Henry Moore sculpture outside the library designed by architect I.M. Pei, who also designed the glass pyramid at the Louvre. She also went to the indoor playground at the Commons. Built in 1973, it was one of the first enclosed urban malls.

Today, the Commons has been reduced to its shell to make way for a conference center, a hotel, an office building and other private businesses. But after much public input, the new Commons will retain some of its community space — including the indoor playground and a small theater.

Tom Vujovich is president of the city’s redevelopment commission. It was formed in 2003 and pushed for building a downtown garage and remaking the Commons, which was no longer attracting people into the city.

Standing atop the garage, Vujovich calls it a first for Columbus.

“We’ve debated for 50 years whether there was a need for a garage,” Vojovich says. “We finally got over that. We built it. And from here you can see a lot of the community’s architectural legacy.”

Some people, like Kelli Adams, say the garage and other structures, like the new Indigo Hotel two blocks east, could threaten that legacy. They call them unremarkable buildings that can go up fairly quickly without a huge price tag.

But Vujovich insists these designs do blend with the existing architecture. He says projects like this hotel are needed to bring more business.

“We think it’s a product that fits in real well with the downtown,” he says. “We did market studies that indicated a need for more hotels, more guestrooms in the community.”
¼br /> Vujovich says boosting economic activity in a time of falling tax revenues and tight budgets has required some compromises.

Those compromises are justified, says Alan Brake. Brake is associate editor of The Architect’s Newspaper and has written about Columbus.

“Some of the building that’s going on there now might not be of international caliber, but from an economic standpoint it’s probably very smart,” Brake says.

Brake says Columbus, like many cities, is finding it needs to revitalize its downtown to bring in business and fortify its public coffers.

Brake and Vujovich say that the days of patronage that came from the likes of J. Irwin Miller are gone. The large companies that they built, like Cummins, often still contribute to their communities but they also have interests in other cities and in satisfying their stockholders.