Spectrum Design Architecs | Engineers

Heartwood: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway

Abingdon, Virginia

Located in historic Abingdon, Virginia, "Heartwood: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway" is a true testament to the power of community and collaboration. Developed from a vision to showcase southwest Virginia's unique artisan culture, Heartwood fulfills its mission by providing a destination for artisans and tourists alike to explore this beautiful, vibrant part of Virginia. In 2007 Spectrum was commissioned to bring the community's vision to realization with a building that would promote Southwest Virginia's local artisans and showcase the Southwest Virginia landscape.

The formal qualities of the building were inspired by the vernacular farm buildings of Southwest Virginia that are indicative of the region. Abstracted traditional forms are combined with unexpected materials providing a juxtaposition of familiar shapes and modern construction. The predominant form-maker is a square module based on the section of a traditional gambrel roof form. The module was rotated and mirrored, providing the organizational plan for the main level. The rotation of the module allows for a multitude of views and captures light from different directions in each of the galleries.

Sited on a prominent perch above Interstate 81, the building engages visitors from all directions. The south face of the building is easily spotted from the highway and takes advantage of the spectacular views of Whitetop Mountain and Mount Rogers - the highest peak in Virginia's Appalachian Mountains. The north face of the building features a precast concrete and glass block silo that marks the entry to the building. With a glistening façade during the day and glowing lantern at night, the silo is the beacon that draws visitors to the main entrance. As visitors enter the facility they are able to flow easily to gallery spaces or through the main lobby and octagonal performance space to one of the many outdoor spaces. An abundance of windows allows the visitor to have a constant connection to the outside.

The two-level 28,600 square foot facility houses five 1,000 square foot galleries that form the wings of the main level. The gallery spaces feature continuous glass walls that provide a connection between interior and exterior exhibits as well as the flexibility to combine galleries for large exhibits. Galleries are provided with computers that display electronic portfolios for each artisan, complete with contact information and driving directions to their studios. The center of the facility features a performance area under an octagonal structure. Featuring a chandelier created by a local artisan, this space allows for large gatherings. The adjacent outdoor plaza gives the performance area a beautiful mountainous backdrop as well as overflow space. The main level also includes a commercial sales space for artisan work, a kitchen facility and cafe featuring locally grown cuisine.

The lower level of the building houses approximately 2,000 square feet of storage space and administrative offices, as well as a freight elevator and loading dock to allow for easy loading and transportation of large artwork and catering supplies.

Creating an environmentally sensitive building was an integral part of the design process. Spectrum felt that it was imperative to protect the natural beauty that the building is showcasing. Heartwood is expected to attain LEED Silver certification with the U.S. Green Building Council. The building features a closed loop geothermal well HVAC system, low VOC materials, low flow and waterless plumbing fixtures, and an abundance of daylighting. Additionally, a filtering system collects and recycles rainwater for toilet flushing and irrigation. The landscape design features native and indigenous plants and includes a chef's garden and collaborative plantings with student horticulturists.

Completed in 2011, Heartwood is the product of a remarkable community vision. It is a destination, but also an introduction to the rich cultural heritage of Southwest Virginia. Designed to be an integral part of its community and surrounding landscape, the building proudly stands as a gateway to all that the region has to offer.