Dec 13, 2012
THEME: Point of View

The Ride to Fat Tire

It’s Friday afternoon and the office is getting together for our weekly “beer time” in the breakroom. Bottles and cans are being passed around, stories are being shared, and plans are being made. I decide on a microbrew and, as I look at the bottle, I no longer see it as just a beer but instead as a symbol of passionate people with a vision to craft a unique and pleasurable experience.

So how did we get from architecture to beer?

It all started when New Belgium Brewing (NBB) decided to team up with us on the design of their East Coast brewery in Asheville, North Carolina.  Taking cues from our founding roots, we chose to embed ourselves into their collective culture. We extensively researched the process of brewing by observing all of the people involved and by fully immersing ourselves in the NBB culture. Bringing our firm’s wealth of knowledge on industrial facilities, place making, and buildings, we engaged NBB’s highly dedicated co-workers and found ourselves drawing parallels between our craft of designing buildings and theirs of making specialty beers.  Both of our organizations foster highly collaborative cultures that thrive on authentic, studio-style interaction where ideas are hashed-out and all players get involved.

Before we ever put pen and pencil to paper, we began weaving our values with theirs, embracing their love for what they do. By doing so, our traditional roles were reversed: they became the teachers and we the students. Taking cues from NBB, our team came up with the term “Industrial Craft” as a way to describe and guide the design of NBB’s new home in Asheville. For the folks at NBB, the craft of beer-making extends beyond the end product to include engaging the local community and being good stewards of the local environment. With this in mind, we incorporated the existing buildings on the project’s site by harvesting materials from the former livestock market, auction house, and tobacco barns. These materials – including corrugated metal with graffiti, wood flooring, wood beams, and steel trusses – will either be repurposed in the new brewery’s structure or be transformed into furniture and fixtures by local craftsmen. Any remaining materials will be made available to local artisans and craftspeople in the local Asheville community.

As someone who is both a lover of beer and Asheville, this is a dream project. For the teams involved, this is a partnership of like minds. We are thrilled to be working with a company that is innovative, focused on social responsibility, and voluntarily mitigating a brownfield site as a way to further enhance their ecologically responsible operations.

This post was originally authored by David Gieser.

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