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architecture as a link madison van pelt committee chair marcel erminy chair gabriela campagnol shelley holliday jeremy merrill studio professor brian gibbs texas a&m university master of architecture fall 2017 - spring 2018

table of contents project overview

07 01

location research city research site research building research

04 05 11 06 13 07 15 08

design process linking

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overall design site development building development linking established and emerging linking old and new linking interior and exterior structural system final design

09 10 25 11 27 12 29 41 13 47 14 59 63

works cited committe signatures

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project overview Abstract Industrialization in America left behind a sea of abandoned warehouses and factories all over the country. Today, these buildings are often neglected and typically lack a design connection from their interior spaces to their adjoining exterior site, and furthermore to the city in which they were built. They lack purpose. The architecture of these existing warehouses and factories are representative of their original usage and have a cultural significance to their city, and abandonment or destruction of these buildings would be tragic. These buildings represent the culture of a place – whether it be an entire city or a single neighborhood – all in one built entity, which is why it is important that we reuse these buildings to give them new purpose. Today, we as a society are forced to ask the question of how we can transform these abandoned buildings to provide them a new function while respecting and celebrating their existing architecture, connecting them with their site, and ultimately integrating them with modern-day culture.

Project Brief This project is an exploration of my interests in the reuse of an existing, historic building, and how the revitalization of the building and re-design of its encompassing site positively impacts its surroundings. The study focuses on three main goals – linking the established area of Downtown Houston to the emerging neighborhood of EaDo; linking the old, historic building currently located on the site to the modern materials and methods of the new building, spaces, and site elements; and linking the interior spaces of the buildings with the exterior, expansive site to create a continuous flow from indoor to outdoor. All of these ideas work together to create a space that has one cohesive goal – celebrating the culture, art, history, and lifestyle of EaDo through the project’s architecture.

The former Maxwell House coffee processing factory and its surrounding site located in East Downtown Houston is transformed into a doorway between Downtown and the emerging neighborhood of EaDo, thus creating a unique integration of the currently highway separated areas. The building and plaza aim to not only link the city’s Downtown and the adjacent developing neighborhood, but to also link the spatial and historic characteristics of the historic building with the qualities of its adjoining site to create a cohesive identity through the celebration of the art and culture of the EaDo neighborhood. The study focuses on answering these three questions: How can architecture link emerging and established? How can architecture link old and new? How can architecture link interior and exterior? When spaces are linked, they inspire the users to partake in the journey in which the architecture is telling.


location research

context diagram


city research The East Downtown neighborhood of Houston, Texas is the location for this project. EaDo, as the up-and-coming neighborhood was recently renamed, is situated east of Downtown Houston just on the other side of Highway 59. The neighborhood is rich with culture and is an important part of Houston’s history. Upon Houston’s founding in 1836, East Downtown was initially part of the third of four original wards. The Third Ward began as a posh residential neighborhood until train lines were installed, turning the neighborhood into a low income area filled with warehouses and commercial developments. The area began to positively transform at the beginning of the nineteenth century when Chinese immigrants made the neighborhood their home; thus, creating Houston’s first “Chinatown.” As the Asian population continued to grow, immigrants began to settle in other locations of Houston. This shift caused the immigrants to move out of the neighborhood leaving the area abandoned once again. “East Downtown became a strange area that was hard to classify – An odd mix of abandoned warehouses and the old Chinatown, that was different than the true Downtown, as well as the surrounding African American and Hispanic neighborhoods bordering it on other sides” (Lane). The neighborhood became unsafe and run-down, however bands began to practice in the neighborhood keeping arts in the area alive. In 2008 the neighborhood was renamed to EaDo and redevelopment was initiated. Today, EaDo is a cultural hub bursting with “quirky little art galleries, live music venues, eclectic theaters, trendy coffee shops, chill wine bars, laid back ice houses, and great restaurants…the area is also practically paradise for craft beer lovers...” (Lane). The BBVA Compass Stadium where the Dynamo soccer team play is also located in EaDo. The neighborhood is up-and-coming and trendy, and currently where Houstonians go to have fun and experience a unique, laid-back lifestyle.

EaDo is not only situated just east of Downtown, but it is also within walking distance of Minute Maid Park baseball stadium, The George R. Brown Convention Center, Discovery Green Park, and Toyota Center basketball stadium. The neighborhood is easily accessed from all major freeways, the METRO light rail, and the METRO bus. All these major transit systems allow EaDo to be easily connected to all major point of interest in Houston. According to the East Downtown Management District, the vision for EaDo “is of a well-planned, high quality community…with a stable, desirable residential neighborhood…safety and security are trademarks, and where well–maintained streets, pedestrian areas and freeways provide ease of mobility that highlights East Downtown’s superb access to Houston’s urban core.”


location plan


site research The site chosen in the EaDo neighborhood are two street blocks located directly between Downtown and EaDo. One of the two blocks is located directly under Highway 59 (situated in the middle of Downtown and EaDo), and the other is located on the east side of the highway in EaDo. The site is currently divided by a feeder road crossing through the two city blocks. The intention of choosing these two sites is to combine them into one mega site, thus eliminating the divide from one side to the other. Minute Maid Park is the destination point on the Downtown side of the Highway. Both blocks are currently vacant, except for when used for event parking.

EaDo has an abundance of existing warehouses and buildings that are not only important to the history of Houston, but are also registered landmarks. The neighborhood embraces these existing buildings and respects their history, with quite a few of them already renovated and currently in use. An existing brick building is located on the east side of the site. Taking into consideration the history of the building and respecting its architectural presence on this site is crucial in the overall success of this project. The site must be unified with the existing building by embracing its architecture; this will in turn heighten the project’s overall design and achieve its overall goals.

When re-designing this large site, it was important to consider its surrounding context, especially since the original goal in combining these sites was to link the Downtown side to the EaDo side. To the south of the site is where the majority of the bars, restaurants, music venues, galleries, and sports arenas are located, and all within walking distance. Because this site is acting as a doorway from Downtown to EaDo, it had to allow for free and easy movement and encourage walkability from one side to the other. EaDo is known for its art and culture, so taking into consideration what the uses of the area is most known for was crucial for the design of the site. As mentioned previously, EaDo is known for its music, art, craft beer, nightlife, and overall relaxed and “cool� environment. The area attracts a younger crowd who enjoy this type of lifestyle and prefer walkability and green spaces. Taking this into account, the site needed to have an emphasis on pedestrian friendly pathways, an abundance of green space and plazas, and both interior and exterior spaces where people can gather and experience all EaDo has to offer.


cheek-neal 1900s


cheek-neal 2018

building research The Cheek-Neal Coffee Building is located on the east side of the site. From 1917 to 1947 the Cheek-Neal was the processing facility for the Maxwell House coffee company. In 2016, the building was named an historical landmark “which means it cannot be demolished or inappropriately altered.” Because this project aims to celebrate the culture of EaDo, embracing and reusing this building in the project became necessary. The building is a part of EaDo’s beginning and its success, so respecting the building is crucial in the design of the overall project. The brick building is typical of many industrial buildings built in this time period. The interior columns are on a strict grid which translates onto the exterior façade. The exterior façade has a repetitive design giving it a grid-like appearance. The building’s architecture is dominant on the site with its repetitive façade having such a powerful presence on the site. When designing for the reuse of this building, it was important to respect its architecture, The Cheek-Neal Coffee Building posed a great opportunity to embrace this existing building and its architecture in the project. This building marks a time when EaDo was in its heyday, so the revitalization of this building that is so important to the neighborhood’s history was an absolute way to celebrate the culture of EaDo.


linking established and emerging linking old and new linking interior and exterior As mentioned previously, three questions guided the design approach to the project. How can architecture link emerging and established? How can architecture link old and new? How can architecture like interior and exterior? The space needed to solve these three questions to ultimately create a successful link between downtown and EaDo. With these questions in mind, the design process began. Existing Two individual city blocks existed at the very beginning of the project. The feeder road runs in between the two blocks and Highway 59 crosses directly above. The existing building is located on the east side of the site.


Merging All that was mentioned before remains the same, except now the two city blocks are merged into one mega block. This merging of the two blocks was the first main step in establishing the link from Downtown to EaDo. Establishing Grid The grid established on site was taken from the exterior façade of the existing building. As mentioned previously, the interior columns are on a strict grid which translates to the exterior façade. This grid is brought from the building and applied to the entire site. Every element in the project is based on this grid. New Building Designing a new building on the site was the next step. This building is placed in line with the existing building using the same grid to determine its column placement and overall dimensions. The new building helps to balance out the east side of the site and acts as a destination point when crossing from Downtown to EaDo. Connecting A direct pathway from Downtown to EaDo (and vice versa) was crucial in creating the link. This pathway creates a very obvious connection from one side to the other.


Pushing Negative One Because the site is so expansive, there was an opportunity to build beneath the ground level onto the negative one level. Spaces were carved out to create this new level. This takes advantage of the abundance of space below the surface of this expansive plaza. This also created an opportunity for “inverse architecture,” the idea that activities can take place below the surface without the ground level being interrupted. New Ground Level Thus “negative one is the new ground” was initiated. The new main level of the project was now negative one with access the existing building, the new building, and all other new spaces being from this level. Pushing Negative Two Once again, with so much space beneath the surface of this project, another opportunity was presented to utilize even more underground space to build onto a negative two level. New Negative Two Level This negative two level creates even more of an experience within the project for users to go deeper within the spaces.

establishing grid

new building

new ground level


pushing negative two

pushing negative one

new negative two level

overall design

view of multi-levels


site development Physical and Visual Connectivity In order to create a doorway between the emerging neighborhood of EaDo and the established area of Downtown Houston, the architecture must create not only physical connections, but also visual connections to and from the site. The first step in creating these connections is to establish a grid on the site taken directly from the existing building. This grid creates a continuous surface underneath the highway, physically connecting the two city blocks, as well as creating a visual continuity that encourages users to journey to the other side. Establishing a direct path to and from Downtown and the neighborhood is also crucial in creating a link. Materiality defines this connection even further with a different material used on the path than the rest of the site. With simply an axis from one side of the highway to the other, users can visually see the connection, as well as can physically travel easily to the other side.a Pedestrian Traffic and Vehicular Transportation The intention of the merging of the two city blocks is to create one unified plaza where pedestrians can roam freely from Downtown to EaDo. Once the two separate blocks are combined, the feeder road will run directly through the site. In order to still allow for cars to pass freely through the site without interfering with pedestrian traffic, the street level is risen up to curb level to create one continuous surface. The street is only defined by the volume created underneath the trees lining the street. This will create an environment where cars will be forced to slow-down and respect the surroundings and the pedestrians. The city’s sidewalks along the perimeter of the site will remain to allow for easy travel.

Plazas and Parks City’s often lack green spaces within dense urban areas. Plazas and parks are placed throughout the site and on all three levels to allow for gathering, recreation, and an abundance of activities within the site. These parks and plazas will provide constant green space throughout the project. All the parks and plazas are easily accessed off of the main path of circulation. Multi-Level Spaces Multi-level spaces create visual interest, encourages exploration down through the site, and creates an opportunity to build new spaces below without visually interrupting the site’s continuity on the ground level. The negative level becomes the new main level where the existing building, the new gallery, and the new restaurants, stores, and bars are accessed. This new ground level establishes the link between Downtown and EaDo by creating a whole new main level that exists between the two sides. Users are directed down into the site to access the spaces and thus encouraged to explore the levels. Plazas and parks on the various levels create an opportunity for users to experience the green spaces at different scales.


view of buildings


building development Respecting The Existing Building As mentioned previously, a goal of the reuse of the existing Cheek-Neal building is to respect its architecture as much as possible. Integrating the existing coffee building’s historic characteristics and structure with the modern designs, materials, and strategies of today’s architecture is crucial in creating cohesion between old and new. The existing windows were removed and replaced with a protruding steel framed cubes with channel glass infill. The new windows create glowing volumes that protrude out from the façade, generating a unique merging of old and new. This strategy preserves the existing brick façade to respect the historic building and its architecture, but still creates an overall fresh and modern design.

Physical and Visual Connectivity A few aspects add to the physical and visual connectivity between the existing building and the new gallery. Physical and visual connectivity is achieved first and foremost through the materials used on the facades. On both buildings, channel glass is used on the upper levels and seamless glass is used on the lower level. Also, the placement of the metal framework within the gallery directly relates to the heights of the levels in the existing building. Lastly, connection is achieved through the grid created from the existing building which is used to determine the new building’s structure and dimensions.

Integrating Site Conditions In order to create a balance on the east end of the site where the existing building is located and to further solidify the EaDo side as the destination point at the end of the pathway, a new building is designed adjacent to the existing building. The design of this new building respects the existing building and integrates existing site conditions. As mentioned previously, Highway 59 runs directly over the site, making it a very important aspect of the project. In order to once again carry out the idea of reuse in the project, highway columns and beams are used for the new building’s structure. This reuse is not only a visual connection to the existing highway, but respects the idea of recycling existing materials.


under highway view


linking emerging and established The link between the established area of Downtown Houston and the emerging neighborhood of EaDo is all about the site design. The combination of the two blocks to create one mega block that literally links the Downtown side with the EaDo side accomplishes this initial goal and creates a doorway from one side to the other. The grid created from the existing building and applied throughout the entire site in addition to the direct pathway connecting the two sides establishes this link visually and physically. This link is further prevalent in the project with the negative one level becoming the new ground level. This shift creates an entirely new space that takes users down into a new level that exists between the two sides.


hamilton street

site plan

congress avenue

preston street

st. emanuel street

chartes street

level -2

dance floor





level -1 | ground level

open to below

outdoor gallery


outdoor dining



cafe outdoor gallery



art store

outdoor dining

amphitheater mechanical pump room

retail space

level 0

temporary market area

green space

picnic area

gallery open to below



level 2

level 3

studio spaces

studio spaces

level 4

studio spaces

level 5

gallery/event space

view of buildings


linking old and new The link between old and new is all about the existing building and the new building. Materiality is the first obvious link between the two buildings. As mentioned previously, seamless glass is used on both buildings’ negative one level, and channel glass on the ground level and the upper levels. The use of identical materials on both buildings’ facades creates a visual link between the two. This materiality is not only a visual link, but also a physical link in the way that it instructs users about the buildings’ accessibility to give a sense of place within the site. With both buildings having an opaque façade on the ground level and upper levels, users realize they cannot access the buildings from this level. They then travel to the negative level where the seamless glass invites them inside. The link is furthermore established in the heights between the two buildings. As expressed previously, the height of the new building directly relates to the heights of the existing building, creating yet another visual link. The grid from the existing building also establishes the link between the two as it determines the new building’s structure placement and overall dimensions.


cross section


existing building



linking interior and exterior The link between the interior and exterior is all about the connections between the spaces in section. The creation of the negative one level creates a sense of interior space with the walls surrounding the space and the main pathway, the highway, and tree canopies all overhead. In section, the negative one level as the new main level can be clearly seen with interior spaces and exterior space connecting seamlessly from one to the next. As users travel throughout the space, they can move effortlessly from indoor to outdoor in varying conditions throughout the site. These plazas are an extension of the interior space, as well as the interior spaces are an extension of the plazas. This seamless design intention establishes the link between the interior and the exterior.


long section (half)

long section (half)

amphitheater (p.46)

long perspective section

view of multi-levels (p.24)

under highway view (p.28)

cross perspective section

night club view

exploded gallery structure


structural system The 16x16 grid taken from the CheekNeal’s structure was the guide for the site and the new building’s structures, as well as the placement of every design element of the project. The site’s structure is pre-cast concrete, with columns every 32 feet on center, with the exception that underneath the street the columns become 16 feet on center to support the structural loads. The primary structure of the new gallery building is re-used concrete highway columns, beams, and i-beams. The secondary structure of the gallery is a series of light-weight steel frames. These frames create a skeleton around the entire building which support the seamless glass and the channel glass that enclose the space.



section metal panel custom metal panel steel frame skylight system concrete structure hollow tube framework channel glass

steel angle spider fitting seamless glass

reinforced concrete slab

insulation concrete footing



final result The Cheek-Neal Coffee building and its surrounding site is created into a space where users can visit to experience the art and culture of EaDo – whether it be to explore the multi-level architecture, gather in one of the parks or plazas, view local artist’s work, have a drink, eat delicious food, shop at unique stores, explore the farmer’s market, dance at the club, or simply to journey to and from Downtown and EaDo.



works cited

committee signatures

Baum, M., & Christiaanse, K. (2014). City As Loft: Adaptive Reuse As A Resource For Sustainable Urban Development. Zürich: GTA Verlag. Cervantes Theater / Ensamble Studio. (2014, January 06). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from

Marcel Erminy

Cheek-Neal Coffee Company Building. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://www. Gerbode, C. (2016, January 25). Coffee Coming Back to Long-Vacant Coffee Plant Next to East Downtown Soup Kitchen. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from Hagerty, K. (2016, September 28). EaDo Has Come A Long Way, But It’s Just Getting Started. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://www.

Gabriela Campagnol

Shelley Holliday

Hemeroscopium House. Madrid, 2008. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://www. Lane, C. (2016, May 22). The Changing Face of Houston - East Downtown. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from Lewis, P., Tsurumaki, M., & Lewis, D. J. (2008). Lewis. Tsurumaki. Lewis: Opportunistic Architecture. Chicago: Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Jeremy Merrill

Brian Gibbs

Lewis, P., Tsurumaki, M., & Lewis, D. J. (2012). Lewis. Tsurumaki. Lewis: Intensities. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Mulvaney, E. (2016, February 10). East Downtown ‘coffee’ building becomes protected landmark. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from Peña, W., & Parshall, S. (2012). Problem seeking: An architectural programming primer. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Sarnoff, N. (2015, September 26). Historic coffee building gets an ‘old school’ renovation. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from https://www. Tag: Cheek-Neal Coffee Building. (2016, February 10). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from Underpass Park. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from Welcome to East Downtown. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from Zumthor, P., & Galbraith, I. (2015). Atmospheres: Architectural Environments, Surrounding Objects. Basel: Birkhäuser. Zumthor, P., Oberli-Turner, M., & Schelbert, C. (2015). Thinking Architecture. Basel: Birkhäuser.


Final Study  
Final Study