Written by: Elyse Agnello
There are so many stories to that I could tell about the buildings. I chose to tell this one through the lens of my experience as a CoFounder and the Architect of Guild Row.
Over the past two years, I’ve worked alongside Mike, Jim, my team at DAAM Projects, and experts from many different professional spheres to design Guild Row as a hub for the artisanally curious and a place to come together around making things. The process of designing the buildings as we simultaneously developed our membership program was a long and circuitous one. As we moved through the process, we eventually discovered that the history of the cobbled-together manufacturing facility that we had selected for the home of Guild Row was, despite its challenges, a great source of design inspiration for both the campus and club.
I was out of town for the week when Jim messaged me saying that he thought he’d found the right buildings for our project. It was the summer of 2016, and we’d been searching for months with no luck, so I stepped out to call him right back. I remember the excitement in his voice as he described the quirkiness of the spaces and the potential that he saw. As I scrolled through the photos Jim had sent, I recall immediately noting the varying ceiling heights, assorted materials palettes, and different structural styles of each space. I wondered, a bit nervously, how we could ever make the disparate personalities of these spaces feel like the singular place that we needed to bring our vision of Guild Row to fruition. However, a few days later as we walked the space with the facility’s longtime manager, Chuck Feldman, I found myself silencing my own concerns about the misaligned floors, hazardous material indicators, and leaking roofs. Instead, I was considering the possibility that this set of old manufacturing buildings, collaged together over the course of many decades was, in fact, exactly right for the club that we aspired to build.
The design of Guild Row began with the history of the existing campus. As the story goes, Hugo Friedman founded a small dental tool manufacturing company, Hu-Friedy Mfg Co, in 1908. Sometime in the 1930s, Friedman moved his operations into 3118 N. Rockwell, where he ran a tiny-team, high-output finishing shop. As the company grew, they expanding both their offices and manufacturing operations across the street; first to 3130 and then to 3138. The company added loading docks and other functional spaces to all three buildings over time as the need arose. Then in 1973, Hu-Friedy created a new warehouse space to accommodate their move towards modernization and computer numerically controlled (CNC) manufacturing, erecting a simple steel and wood structure with a plain masonry facade that spanned between the buildings on Rockwell at 3130 & 3138 [See 1973 Blueprint]. That was the last addition to the campus at Rockwell and Fletcher under Hu-Friedy’s ownership.
As we dove into the development of our design concept for Guild Row, we drew inspiration from the varied masonry facades and eclectic details within, embracing the incongruence pervasive throughout the existing buildings. Instead of pursuing a strategy of strict preservation, we created a design framework that would allow for club’s spaces take a new form and perpetuate the campus evolution that began in the 1930s. In doing so, we liberated ourselves to think architecturally about operations of addition, subtraction and connection to create a series of flexible rooms that celebrate the building’s rich manufacturing legacy while embracing its burgeoning future as a place for artisanal activity, craft and community.
After several iterations, we decided to proceed with three primary architectural moves: (1) the demolition of the 1973 warehouse, (2) the addition of a sawtooth structure at the west end of campus, and (3) the stitching of the east facades [See DAAM design concept diagram]. Each of these moves were filtered through the Slant, a design concept that we derived from the iconic image of the slope of Rockwell Street between Belmont and Fletcher as it cuts across the existing row of building. We began by transposing the slanted line; first in plan at the facility’s main entry and then in elevation at the sawtooth addition. At the entry, under a new continuous metal-clad parapet, we proposed a semi-transparent facade of member-etched wood boards arrayed along a slanted line that swings into the campus. Extending across the row from 3138 across to 3130 and then implicitly to 3118, this intervention was conceived of as a central and celebratory entryway into the campus, designed to invite people into the buildings, provide a large public stoop for to gather on, and evoke the idea that activities happening within the club’s walls will permeate beyond. Across the Rockwell Garden, Guild Row’s new open-air outdoor venue, we planned for a multi-ridge slanted roofline to rise up out of the void created by the demolition of the 1973 warehouse. For the sawtooth addition, we took inspiration from William Fairbairn’s 1827 shed principle as discussed in his “Treatise on Mills and Millwork1,” and planned to retrofit a new structure onto the site with clerestory windows to the north that will allow for uniform natural light ideal for crafting to penetrate deep into Guild Row’s Avondale Room and Work Shop as it did in akin historic manufacturing facilities [See DAAM’s East Elevation]. With the campus anchored in west by the new sawtooth addition and stitched in the east by the new facade and parapet, we could turned our attention to the design of the individual remaining buildings.
I won’t dive too deeply into the details on any one interior space, that’s likely another story or two, but I will share that on a high level each building at Guild Row, new and old, presented its own unique set of design challenges and opportunities. By far the most striking opportunity throughout the campus was the potential for towering high-bay spaces. Despite the long path to final decisions, it had always been clear to me from that first walkthrough with Jim and Chuck that the east end of 3130 should be our member lounge; Guild Hall. [See Existing Condition Windows]. I could imagine, almost instantly, that by removing the majority of the existing floor to merge the sunken storage space in the basement below with the office above, a spectacular double height space space with two levels of steel frame, southern facing windows would emerge. The remaining floor could then become a member mezzanine space that would serve as an overlook of the daily activity of the room, and it could become a dynamic place where we could grow with our membership community. Similarly, from the beginning, we planned to demolish much of the existing floor in 3138, where we planned the Belmont Room, one of our two event hall. With a 20’ tall ceiling, we could build an awe-inspiring room nestled within the intimate walls of the existing shotgun space that was previously configured to accommodate assembly-line production. These old retooled spaces would pay homage to their past uses, with soaring steel structure, clearspan wood joists, and dynamic french-cleat wall features complete with member-made wooden toolboxes. While the details these plans have shifted over time and the designs have evolved, the initial conceit for these spaces has really remained unwavering and will be present in buildings when we open the doors to you, our members.
Unlike most architecture projects, if all goes as planned, there will be no end to the design of Guild Row. The building will develop with ongoing collaboration and input from our members, curators and partners alike. It will participate in the long lineage of the collage architecture1 that was set into motion almost a century ago by Hu-Friedy Mfg Co. As the walls are clad, installations are hung, memories are made and the rooms are filled with our members, Guild Row will continue to evolve with the club and its community as our collective ongoing work in progress.
More on Collage Architecture coming soon in a forthcoming essay that I have in the works.