Seeking Craft

The construction industry is compiled of endless tasks. The question becomes who will complete these tasks… Who will build? As designers and contractors we should seek craft and not labor. We not only ask the question ‘Who will build?’, but ‘Who will take pride in what they build?’ When designing and drawing here at Studio MEJA, we always question how our designs are built. A craftsman is defined as one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity. He or she has experience, takes care in what they do, and understands detail. Our contractors renovating our new office are easily situated in these areas of craft. We work side by side with them, understand any issues, and develop the best possible solution. A craftsman’s best work is completed with full understanding.

Jose, proudly displaying a finished plank

Jose, proudly displaying a finished plank

Ramon, doing something he shouldn't on a ladder, but working with craft to create a well finished wall regardless 

Ramon, doing something he shouldn't on a ladder, but working with craft to create a well finished wall regardless 

Mark, preparing a wall for its finishes

Mark, preparing a wall for its finishes

Rich, gingerly applying touch-ups 

Rich, gingerly applying touch-ups 

Visions of an Art Gem

Although it has only been a few months since we moved into our fascinating building in Olneyville, we have already started scheming ways to make our site into an evolving, artistic gem in the neighborhood. Olneyville is active with creative individuals working together to deliver bits of wonder to the residents. Recently we partnered with some awesome organizations, the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) and the Steel Yard to put together two grant proposals for different parts of our site.  We envision our corner of Olneyville to be a constant source of experimentation, discovery, and amazement for the residents and visitors of Olneyville. 

On one side of the building, the Aleppo side, we are working with the WRWC to create a vibrant mural related to local natural history. This mural will enliven the street, and encourage people to travel down Aleppo St towards Riverside Park to explore the park's amengities and the Woonasquatucket River. 

On the other side of our building, the Manton Avenue side, we are joining ongoing efforts to improve public transit stops. We have partnered with the Steel Yard to plan a project that would replace our current fence with a decorative, locally made fence with references to the area's industrial history. Some native planting and a pad for revolving art installations will help make this portion of our site exciting and engaging for the passersby and bus stop users of Olneyille's busiest transit corridor.

While it might take some time for these efforts to come to fruition the sparks for the ideas and conversations have been ignited and the imaginations fully inspired.  

 

"Olneyville's Nature Gateway", a proposal for an environmental mural, fronts Aleppo Street with the aim of activating this iconic corner with community engagement and unique environmental graphics. 

The "Community Art Stop" project assists and enriches existing efforts to create safe and attractive bus stops along Manton Avenue. Our proposal seeks to make this streetscape into a revolving urban art exhibit

The History of Atlantic Designworks

The Atlantic Design Works complex consists of a mid 1800s Gasometer, and its early 20th century addition. The Atlantic-Delaine Gasworks, built between 1852 and 1864, consists of the 50ft diameter brick rotunda, which was used to hold flammable gas, as well as the adjacent 30ft x 140ft rectangular brick (retort) building, which would have housed the furnace used to heat the coal which released said gas.

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     This illustration depicts a gas manufacturing plant of the 1920s. Still, the general process would be similar to the methods used in Olneyville in the 1860s—1880s. 

This illustration depicts a gas manufacturing plant of the 1920s. Still, the general process would be similar to the methods used in Olneyville in the 1860s—1880s. 

The Atlantic-Delaine Gasworks     1850- 1940

The gasworks was originally built at the same time as the second Atlantic Mill building, and would have provided for the lighting of artificial gas-lamps in the Atlantic Mill Building, as well to light local gas-lit street lamps. The second Atlantic Mill building was able to be twice as wide as the first Atlantic Mill (which relied solely on natural light) because of the availability of this new technology. The gas would not have been used to power the Atlantic Mill itself; the mill was a “steam mill”, originally using a coal-fired Corliss Steam Engine (rather than hydraulic power) to create power for its industrial machinery. Only in the late 1880s was hydraulic power incorporated, when the Atlantic Mill acquired the adjacent Union Mill.

The Atlantic-Delaine Gasometer is one of three surviving gas plants in the city of Providence (one is located in the Elmwood section; the other is in the Wanskuck Historic District). The likely period of use of these buildings as a gas manufacturing plant was only about twenty years (1864-1884), after which the mill converted over to electric-arc lighting. The building originally would have had metallic domed roof, and would have had a capacity of about 27,000 cubic feet of gas. The dome was removed in the early 20th century and replaced with a lower-profile heavy-timber roof.

 

Arpin Van Lines  1940-1980

After the Gasworks outlived its original purpose, it was converted to storage, and in the late 1940s to early 1950s the triangular building at the corner of Manton Ave and Aleppo Ave was built. This building was owned by Arpin Van Lines, a local moving and warehousing, company founded in 1900 which originally delivered ice and coal in the Providence area. The company is still head-quartered in Rhode Island, and now has an international reach, and is one of the top five moving services in the United States. Inside our Conference Room, one can still read the “ghost sign” that would have been painted on the exterior of the building, touting their five warehouses at that time! The building was used as office and warehousing space during this time, until the early 1980s. A vehicular scale was installed during this time period, the exterior concrete pad rests between the two gasworks buildings, and the original scale is inside the lower level of the triangular building. In the late 1950s to early 1960s the “connector” building between the Gasometer and the Triangular Building was added, and the square windows in the rotunda were punched in.

These painted letters were uncovered during the demolition of the face of this wall, which was at one time an exterior facing wall between the circular and the triangular buildings. We decided to let these letters remain as they are. 

These painted letters were uncovered during the demolition of the face of this wall, which was at one time an exterior facing wall between the circular and the triangular buildings. We decided to let these letters remain as they are. 

The scale in the basement, it read the weight of the trucks parked on the vehicular scale on the street

The scale in the basement, it read the weight of the trucks parked on the vehicular scale on the street

 Wolf E. Myrow  1980-2000

This 60 year old Rhode Island company is based across Aleppo Street, and used this building, as well as the Retort building as storage for their jewelry supply company. This ties in with the history of Providence as a “jewelry capital of the world”—as it was a manufacturing center from the 1800s through the mid 20th century.

"ALWAYS NEW STYLES OF EARRINGS" Still reads on one of the walls from the time the buidling was a storage for costume jewelry, a testament to its layered history

"ALWAYS NEW STYLES OF EARRINGS" Still reads on one of the walls from the time the buidling was a storage for costume jewelry, a testament to its layered history

 

Hive Archive  2000-2010

In the early 2000s a women’s arts collective acquired the building, with the goal of it serving as a center for arts-based programming. They acquired a grant from the State of Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission, which they used to restructure the roof—truncating four columns and creating the trussed ceiling which exists today. The group used the Triangle’s former bill-board as an opportunity to display public art.

One can see where a column was "cut" short and restructured within a metal truss under the ceiling to create a completely open circular floor plan

One can see where a column was "cut" short and restructured within a metal truss under the ceiling to create a completely open circular floor plan

This public art bill board, installed by the Hive Art Collective, disappeared in a major wind storm as the buidlig was getting remodeled, but we plan on following the idea with another art installation in the future. 

This public art bill board, installed by the Hive Art Collective, disappeared in a major wind storm as the buidlig was getting remodeled, but we plan on following the idea with another art installation in the future. 

 

Studio MEJA Architecture  2015+

When Studio MEJA purchased the building, it was an un-insulated, vacant shell, with non-functional or out-dated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. They have economically improved the building’s enclosure and systems, brought natural gas into the building (which it ironically was never supplied with), replaced the windows and added a common entrance stair from Aleppo Street. The space can now accommodate up to three separate tenants, and we hope it will continue the entrepreneurial and creative spirit the building has embodied over the last 150 years. 

Before renovation by Studio MEJA

Before renovation by Studio MEJA

This area, now exhibiting some of its historical signage, with new floors, finishes, fixtures, and treads now serves as the "lobby" and conference area into the Atlantic Designworks. 

This area, now exhibiting some of its historical signage, with new floors, finishes, fixtures, and treads now serves as the "lobby" and conference area into the Atlantic Designworks. 

Happy Holidays to All!

Thank you everyone that came to our Christmas Party + Open House! It was a great pleasure to see our family, friends, and neighbors at Atlantic Designworks for the first time, exploring our new space and making new connections. Happy Holidays from studioMEJA!!!

Party prep, Taylor hanging the lights and Kathy setting up the feast (note elaborate beer keg) 

Party prep, Taylor hanging the lights and Kathy setting up the feast (note elaborate beer keg) 

Finishing touches

Finishing touches

The 11 is on and the doors are opened! 

The 11 is on and the doors are opened! 

Noah, age 5, awarded chocolate Santa 

Noah, age 5, awarded chocolate Santa 

Celia, age 4, created this post modern ginger bread house

Celia, age 4, created this post modern ginger bread house