July 06, 2017
Teaching old buildings new tricks
We all know iconic brands. Apple, Target, Nike, the list goes on. Brands are powerful tools to make a company, product, or person have a memorable and emotional connection to its audiences. I recently walked past D.C.â€™s newest squash facility â€œSquash on Fireâ€ and was struck by the way its brand was built around the history of location â€“ an old firehouse. The company, whose name is a play on words, is situated on top of bright firetruck-red doors. And its logo is a Dalmatian, the official mascot for firehouses.
Reusing old buildings for a purpose other than its original intent, is a common practice in real estate â€“ known as adaptive reuse. Itâ€™s a practice that can maintain a cityâ€™s uniqueness and build community goodwill by preserving the history of neighborhoods while infusing new life into underutilized, neglected, or abandoned buildings.
Reinventing the original personality of a building, or redesigning the intact â€œbonesâ€ of the property through understanding its flexibility to exist in a new, modern use, is a respectful nod to history. But crafting an entire brand around the property is less common – yet can help grow a brand experience that keeps customers coming.
The Charles Street Jail, located in Boston, Mass., went through a handful of different owners and purposes since its construction in 1851. In the early 1990s, the property was acquired by Massachusetts General Hospital. Seeking to create a hotel where the families of patients could stay, they hired architects to transform the former prison into something amazing.
And so The Liberty Hotel was born, a revitalization of a former prison through tasteful dÃ©cor and clever amenity naming. In the former drunk tank now stands a swanky bar, Alibi, complete with walls lined with celebrity mug shots and smartly-named cocktails like The Jailbird, while in the former prison yard guests can find a vibrant courtyard seating area, dubbed The Yard.
In D.C.â€™s historic Atlas District, the bar Church and State gave an old church new energy while keeping the buildingâ€™s original assets like its stained glass and faÃ§ade. They kept details of the siteâ€™s history by having a bar with a foot rail that is also a kneeler and pews for sitting.
Buildings can go though many different iterations throughout its existence. Breathing life into old properties by intertwining history and the ethos of a building or location is what sets these brands apart.
LEVICK Fellow Daniel Leptoukh contributed to this post.Â