In its former incarnation, KNOCK’s headquarters, located in a downtrodden precinct of Minneapolis, was a building remarkable only for being unremarkable. Millions of its cousins — aging, uninspired commercial boxes — dot the country’s secondary roads from coast to coast. Down-on-their-luck structures, they mostly go unnoticed and there is no love lost when they are felled. Thanks to the vision of KNOCK’s team and Minneapolis-based Julie Snow Architects, however, this little building, known as the Glen, is getting a second go at life.
Founded 10 years ago by entrepreneur Lili Hall, KNOCK is a branding, advertising, and design firm based on a collaborative business model. In 2008, as KNOCK threatened to outgrow its rented offices in Minneapolis’s warehouse district, Hall contacted Julie Snow (one of her employees is married to Snow’s partner, Matthew Kreilich), to renovate and expand their space. The architects went as far as producing a bid set of documents, but then Hall had second thoughts. Weighing the cost and the fact that the building was up for redevelopment, she decided to investigate buying something of her own. Her search brought her to Minneapolis’s bleak Harrison neighborhood, typified by its low commercial construction and modest single-family houses. Across from a supermarket-turned-funeral-parlor and next to an abandoned gas station, a dowdy 1960s former food distribution center caught her eye. The price was right and the site was convenient to Hall’s home and KNOCK’s largest client, Target, but the building had “teardown” written all over it. As the economy soured, however, Hall, acknowledging the challenge of securing loans to build from the ground up, instead asked Snow’s office to help reinvent the existing building.
“Our first place was all open,” says Hall. “We needed more privacy, but also an open feel. And we required daylight and wanted to control sound.” The building would include a range of amenities to attract and retain the expanding young staff and, importantly, would serve as a calling card and reflect KNOCK’s work model, founded on creative interaction among various design disciplines.
Good bones enabled the team to repurpose the original steel structure, as well as brick and CMU load-bearing walls at the core, though they replaced the deteriorating roof with white thermoplastic olefin (TPO) membrane, the insulated exterior walls, and installed insulated glass windows. The architects explored several cladding options, but to keep costs down and preserve the building’s character, they ended up retaining the existing brick and painting it gray-brown. To assert KNOCK’s brand and provide visual interest they created an entry by punching a box through the front facade and sheathing it in cedar. They then carried the wood box inside to form the reception area and a louvered conference room. “We looked to find moments where we could retain the original building’s open-ceiling, warehouse feeling,” says Kreilich, so the team left ceilings exposed in the offices and in the open work area (where they inserted sound baffles between the trusses) and dropped them in the hallways and core.
The team added new windows on the south elevation, increased the height of perimeter windows on the west facade, and installed generous glazing between the offices and hallways. These moves, as well as the use of skylights and light tubes, flood the building with daylight while mitigating energy consumption. To accommodate KNOCK’s creative as well as account and project management teams, the architects divided the workspace into a bullpen and a chain of enclosed but visually open offices. And to encourage collaboration, they integrated meeting and breakout areas into the design, including pinup walls (which double as acoustic treatments) and a library. Social spaces, such as a yoga room, sundeck, pantry, and large kitchen, address the lack of local amenities and reinforce the office culture.
Combining scrappiness with a bit of attitude, Julie Snow Architects has helped KNOCK package its most important brand: itself. Rather than dressing up the building as something it is not, the architects have revealed its forthright simplicity, helping at once to integrate the Glen into the neighborhood fabric while positioning it as a model that points to a new direction for this ubiquitous, banal building stock.
Julie Snow Architects, Inc.
2400 Rand Tower
527 Marquette Ave
Minneapolis MN 55402
Location: 1315 Glenwood Ave Minneapolis MN 55405
Completion Date: August 2010
Gross square footage: 9,750 sq.ft.
Construction cost: $1.3 million (construction)
Owner: Lili Hall
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Project Manager/Designer: Pauv Thouk, Associate AIA
Design Team: Tamara Wibowo
Architect of record
Geotechnical: American Engineering Testing
Lighting: Julie Snow Architects, Inc.
Millwork: Willie Willette Works
Custom Plaster: Otto Painting Design
CAD system, project management, or other software used
Metal/glass curtain wall: CMI CTS Storefront 6", Black Annodized
Rainscreen (terra cotta, composite, etc.): See wood below
Wood: ¾” ship-lap cedar wood siding in rainscreen application
Moisture barrier: VaproShield
Curtain wall: CMI CTS Storefront 6", Black Annodized
Metal frame: CMI CTS Storefront 6", Black annodized
Skylights: 14” SolaTubes and Plastic Pyramid Dome Skylights
Metal doors: Assa Abloy Series SU Steel Frames and 1 ¾” Omega (OI) Doors
Wood doors: Interior custom wood doors and frames by Aaron Carlson
Exit devices: Stainless steel push operators for automatic doors - 4" square wall mount
Pulls: Hager Wrought Door Pull, 4 Round, Stainless Steel
Other special hardware: Hafele Aluminum handles - silver colored anodized
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Willie Willette Works
Paints and stains: Sikkens interior and exterior stain
Plastic laminate: Formica
Solid surfacing: Corian Glacier White
Special surfacing: Venetian Plaster by Otto Painting Design
Floor and wall tile:
Carpet: 100% recycled content, Color 68750 Coffee, Shaw Eco-solution - tru colors tile 59368, product by Shaw Contract Group
Special interior finishes unique to this project: Sound Silencer for pin-up boards
Reception furniture: Willie Willette Works
Chairs: Eames Aluminum Group Chairs and Eames Molded Plywood Chairs
Tables: Kitchen table by Willie Willette Works
Other unique products that contribute to sustainability