Together Apart, the adaptive reuse of a dilapidated two-story brick building
Together Apart is the adaptive reuse of a dilapidated two-story brick building in America’s rustbelt. Built in approximately 1900 with a 1940s extension, the historic structure has operated as a grocery store, strip club, attorney’s office, and hair salon, among other businesses, in its past.
We received a brief to transform the space into a cat café for a local entrepreneur. Cat cafés are a unique typology, given health regulations that demand air-tight separation between animals and food preparation—in this case, cats and coffee. This requirement allowed us to expand on our interest in designing partitioned spaces that support programmatic flexibility but still imply and encourage togetherness and community. The project is the first phase of a continual construction scheme on the overarching lot, which responds to new city zoning that encourages high density construction and furthers our efforts to design heterogeneous, mixed-use spaces that service a wide range of users. These can be built as funds are available. The so-far realized form is a part of a future whole. We asked: Could a project—a building—be thought of as a continual construction instead of a single expense incurred all at once?”
The building can be accessed from either end, allowing an independent functioning of both halves while still being physically and visually connected. These heterogeneous zones meet in the middle at a series of transparent, zig-zagged partitions. The kitchen counter is sliced by a glass wall allowing for unexpected visual encounters of cats and cooking. Similarly, terrazzo benches and a continuous light strip are bifurcated by the separation wall but extend into both zones, creating further visual connection. Windows likewise stick halfway into the washroom and halfway into the seating area, and the stepped bathroom is mirrored by the stepped cat-litter-room.
At the building’s rear, the cat area is halved by a folding-sliding façade, which opens onto a gravel patio. A brick wall hems the patio. Stepped on one side, it echoes the zig-zagging form of the adjacent glass partition, and is perforated by two large glass windows at the rear. Surface-mounted onto the exterior, the window’s frame is invisible from the patio’s interior and creates the illusion of an uncovered opening—as if the cats could jump out at any moment. Likewise, it blurs the separation between inside and outside, establishing a continuous sightline connecting the project’s various zones.
The premise of the cluster of distinct gestures is that the wider the array of spatial conditions available, the wider the array of uses will be attracted.
Stephanie Davidson, Georg Rafailidis
John Banaszak Engineer of Record
Stephanie Davidson, M.Arch, B.E.D.S., B.F., Assistant Prof. RSID Toronto, Canada
Georg Rafailidis, Dipl. Ing. fh., M.A., Associate Prof. State University of New York at Buffalo
Awards and Honors
Emerging Voices Award Architectural League of New York//Architectural Review House Award Winner//AZ Award, Canada//Best of Canada Design Award//Blueprint Award//American Architecture Prize AAP//Architizer A+ Award//DETAIL Prize Finalist//Mac Dowell Fellowship//Storefront for Art and Architecture StreetFest competition winner//Reinventing the Strip Mall Competition Winner//Arch+ competition Simple Systems-Complex Capacities Winner
Architectural Review, Domus, Arquine, Bauwelt, DETAIL, AIT, Architect’s Newspaper, Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, Deutsche Bauzeitung, Frame
RSID Toronto//Peter Behrens School of Art Dusseldorf//University of Toronto//State University of New York//RWTH Aachen University Germany