This is not the first restaurant venture to aspire to a value system rather than just a business. But it is unique in that it laid the groundwork for a democratic enterprise and a far reaching design dialogue. This project examines how a building can be a critique of current urban development patterns and the entire U.S. food industry, as well as become an anchor for the revitalization of a walkable downtown community.
Alice Waters, Judy Wicks and Frank Stitt are all restaurateurs involved in the farm to table movement, Waters having invented the genre. This movement establishes a business venture as an activist mechanism. Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver have written extensively about food and the food industry. The Little Building seeks to examine the café as an example of entrepreneur as community activist.
The café is rooted in the notion of the local, and operates within this concept on a number of levels: food is sourced regionally with a 100 mile goal radius, the location is in the downtown district, avoiding the automobile-centric and ubiquitous “strip”, the architecture is framed by an existing mixed-used building (commercial and residential) which was completely renovated using sustainable design principles and local craftsmen.
The goal of the café is not to design all the activity inside its four walls, but to extend the influence of the farm-to-table movement throughout the community. Their Little Building Blog, along with the sandwich board out front, serves as a town crier for the ever-changing daily menu. This virtual space has led to quite an intimate relationship with the customers: daily Facebook critiques of spring greens soup and chocolate chip muffins make the café feel very democratic. Partnering with the local artist co-op has led to a constant flow of artist and designer community events that promote the creative capital of Starkville.
The seating is organized via a bench that extends through the entire space. Placed adjacent to the bench are tables that were made on site and that I designed. Inserted into the top of the table are ceramic tiles depicting small maps of the Starkville area by London artist Lubna Chowdhary; this was the only non-local act. The main brick wall is painted white to enhance the light coming through the new skylight, hence reducing the electric light need during the day. The iconic Little Building blue was created by matching the paint colors to the Mississippi sky prior to a rain storm. The chairs were created by me for the project to reflect the “Within Arm’s Reach” ethos as well as telling a story about the southern vernacular.
Photos by Rinne Allen and Jennifer Hudson
In the spring of 2016 Textile Arts Center (TAC) located on Carroll Street in Gowanus Brooklyn needed to consolidate programs into one 2800 square foot space after losing an adjacent 1500 square foot space. Their headquarters needed to house an extensive children’s educational program as well as eight artists-in-residence who occupy the individual studios during a nine-month cycle. Coggan and Crawford’s task was to manipulate a space plan that would accommodate multiple programs. The program brief included improve the textile dying station and reorient the administration work stations for better communication between program managers and teachers, accommodating a yardage table for silk screening, classroom space for children’s classes in the after school hours and then adult classes in the evenings. The Artist in Residence program accommodates Artist for a nine month cycle and then in the summer the space changes dramatically to accommodate a 50 children summer program. There was an acknowledgement that this multiplicity of program might be too dense for the space, but for at least a twelve-month period the re-design was necessary.
The solution was to demolish the existing partitions and create a thick storage wall that would separate the artist-in-residence studios from the main studio and classroom space. The storage wall is a series of 30-inch deep movable cabinets that open out to the studio/classroom area. These cabinets are movable and shift to the perimeter of the space during the summer program. The back side, which faces the artists’ studios is clad in a woven felt rugs. These rugs were made by the Textile Arts staff and members of the textile community and were woven and adhered to the cabinets on site. The felt material was reused felt wallpaper from the original space that the designer Annie Coggan and TAC director Kelly Valleta designed into woven wall coverings. This act of woven textiles on the back of the storage was meant to dampen the sound in the artist’s studios for better concentration. The woven wall also operates as a pin board for the artists while working.
Although our participation in this project was simple space planning techniques and a small amount of design and material innovation the result is a dynamic and collaborative environment for the Brooklyn textile community.
A former worker's cottage in Belfast, this small house was completely gutted and reworked. The plan was manipulated to relocate the stair to the center and provide for three bedrooms and two baths on the upstairs level. There was one simple rule made for organizing the house materially: all short walls in the house, or walls that went east to west, were clad in wood siding that was salvaged from the existing house; all the long walls, north to south, were sheathed in drywall. This means that most of the art is on the long elevations and the wood walls are art in and of themselves. All the furniture and fittings have been in the family’s life for some time, there were very few items that were “bought” for the house. The art is primarily the work of the owners with some work from family and friends. The house is an archive of the family's life, the organizational decisions are meant to enable one person to feel comfortable in the house alone as well as having privacy when the house is full.
Photos by Caleb Crawford
A 1000 square foot renovation for a long term client garnered a new stair, new kitchen and bathroom finishes and a series of discreet tailoring exercises to change the proportions of the original rooms. All finishes and furniture operate in a strict gray, black and white palette with only the clients extensive puzzle collection disrupting the rigor.
The location of the kitchen in this three bedroom Brooklyn apartment was moved to the center of the floor plan to reflect the family's love of cooking and entertaining. The clean white materials and surfaces were selected to enhance the quality of sunlight that pours through the space during the day. The effervescent green painted cabinets were chosen to mirror the family's buoyant spirit.
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York
The overall directive for this project in a 1890’s Prospect Heights, Brooklyn brownstone was to enhance the way they lived. The family had lived in the house for a number of years and the choreography of how they occupied it was in flux due to the children growing older. Therefore, the ground and parlor floors were significantly reworked, including a new kitchen and a general opening up of the space including a new stair. Originally it was closed at the rear and the front, but we reversed that, creating a new library space in the front and opened the rear up to the south.
The family has an ever-expanding and impressive collection of beach rocks that they collect during their Maine summers. A primary task was to house this collection as well as their family heirloom furniture. The clients were partial to a certain imperial yellow, and we introduced a complimentary series of grays and blues that derived from the beach rocks. The base color of the project is a white with a tint of gold to enhance the warmth of the space. The staircase was opened up and a bench was devised to act as a handrail and a sideboard downstairs. The kitchen maintained its vintage sink and a new modern counter top was added to create a breakfast bar. The upstairs was programmed for the beach rocks, and we created a library area and formal entertaining area on the one floor. Each act was carefully deliberated with the client.
Photos by Caleb Crawford
The Little Building apartment in the rear of the cafe was built within the “Within Arms Reach” ethos. Floors were sourced from a local saw mill that takes old textile mill beams and planes the material down to floor planks, the brick wall was power washed and sealed to be exposed, the millwork for the kitchen was made on site by the project’s carpenter, and all the wood surfaces were painted by a local paint company with non-toxic Mythic paint. The family’s furniture and objects add the final layer to the apartment, carefully composing a collection of modern southern ceramics, letterpress posters, and handmade textile objects.
Photos by Jennifer Hudson
305 Greensboro is a 1910 Queen Anne house situated in Starkville, MS. The spaces were expansive and inspiring. With a combination of custom, re-customized and selected furniture, this house acted as a laboratory for Roommaking and the power of furniture for social mapping. The palette for the house had a base of bright white throughout, China White being the wall color, and that enabled the owners' taste toward saturated and expressive shapes and colors to weight the rooms. The palette was intentionally not “matched” but balanced and particular attention was paid to the proximity of bold colors in the room in irder to compose the entire space. Throughout the house the floor was wide plank oak and artisian painted floor matts were placed as room indicators in particular social areas.
Photos by Caleb Crawford
Harlem, New York
The Dearborn Residence, an 1890’s brownstone in Harlem, had the blessing of deep, rich, expansive woodwork throughout the parlor floor of the building, and it also had the curse of deep, rich, expansive woodwork throughout the parlor floor. The carving and wainscoting added character and narrative to the space, but starved the rooms of light. Our objective was to transform an otherwise dark and somber volume into a space of light and activity.
The resolve was to brighten all the other surfaces of the rooms: walls became museum white, kitchen surfaces stainless steel, and the owners’ beloved color of French blue would be the selection for all the objects in the room, even taking an iconic yet ordinary table and powder coating it blue!
To promote the transmission of light deeper into the volume, a series of programmed light boxes were introduced. The intervention responds to dining and entertainment needs, in addition to new fixtures and furnishings throughout. Translucent glass, stainless steel, marble, and mirror were introduced to transmit and reflect light. In order to preserve the character of the existing wood paneled wainscoting, the cabinetry pulls away from the walls and hovers above the floor. The existing formal dining room now houses the kitchen and the former kitchen has become a pantry and powder room.
Photos by Paul Finkel