Access Advertising & Public RelationsRoanoke, Virginia
2010 Blue Ridge AIA Excellence in Design Award Winner
Access is one of the fastest growing ad agencies in Virginia. The company started in Roanoke's business incubator in 1996 and soon moved into a 2,000-square-foot converted house to accommodate its growing staff. By early 2007, that space became very cramped. Access saw an opportunity to find a more spacious home for its successful firm and to restore one of the long-abandoned historic buildings in a part of Roanoke's downtown that cries out for urban pioneers. They soon found a 1930s structure (borrowing from the Streamline Moderne style and originally a premiere car dealership), but were unable to find original plans or photos of the building to guide Spectrum Design for the design process. The next challenge was to realize the vision of the project: to use the building within its historic context. The front was originally a showroom, and the rest of the space was for vehicle repair and maintenance. The owners wanted to similarly use the front area as a "showroom" to comfortably accommodate visitors and the "maintenance" area for open work spaces for the Access staff. The first challenge was met with a contest offering a reward to anyone who could produce detailed photos of the building circa-1930. A local businessman brought in just such a picture showing the architectural details. Now Access was able to give Spectrum something to work with, and plans for the renovation began in late 2007. The next challenge was met by retaining the showroom's large storefront windows and poured concrete floors and by using appropriate architectural details. The work area (which once held the dealership's inventory of Buicks and Indian Motorcycles) boasts the original barrel-vaulted ceiling and bowstring trusses, and natural light diffuses through the factory-type windows and restored skylights. Stacked-cube partitions define workspaces while allowing communication flow and uninterrupted views of the entire area. Foreman offices are now meeting rooms, and loft areas provide spaces for research and media monitoring. A handicapped access system with wheelchair lift was installed at the building's side entrance. The roof is an Energy Star membrane that reflects summer heat, and energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems were installed. Technology connection points are distributed throughout and the building boasts a robust enterprise-grade fiber optics network.