183 N Perry St

Lawrenceville, Georgia

The aged storefront dates back to 1914, anonymous, forgotten by time, but occupying a prominent location on the historic square in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The structure was in a state of decay, returning to dust. Within the historic downtown setting, the context was a given. The objective was to utilize and amplify the buildings presence.

Renovations of century-old buildings often attempt to reconstitute particular moments of history, the adjacent courthouse being an example. For this contemporary space, the design embraces the trajectory of the existing structure’s transformation, rather than returning to a moment frozen in time, offering a sense of passing thru time.

The design began by emptying the space; uncovering the ceiling, uncovering the brick walls and removing the back wall. The new design responds to the pre-existing. An uncovered haphazardly cut hole in the roof, which once was a fan, becomes a skylight allowing natural light to spill into the interior. Century old masonry is restored, but not touched by the new. Pine roof joists, still bearing the circular saw marks from milling, are left exposed revealing their dark bronze patina. The only new walls, which house the utilitarian functions, touch lightly both the floor and ceiling, but stand away from the existing walls, acknowledging a sense of reverence to their survival.

Existing materials are left in their natural state. For new materials coatings are not used. Interior spaces are arranged to frame views of the courthouse and provide glimpses of a new courtyard. New columns, float from the floor and offer views thru gaps.

An entry studio maximizes the sidewalk exposure, while allowing views into and thru the entire space. The 1950’s awning is functionally enhanced by not only creating shade and capturing sidewalk territory outside, but also extending into the building in which visitors enter beneath.

Infrastructure for air, power and data are inconspicuously inserted to provide a viable facility, but no diminished the material impact.

"We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow