LRK leaders on designing creative spaces in Memphis, Dallas and Philly

By Updated: January 03, 2019 12:24 AM CT | Published: December 31, 2018 10:48 PM CT

The Crosstown Arts Theater and South Main Artspace Lofts both opened this year. Besides being spaces built with artists in mind, the spaces also have something else in common – the projects were designed by Memphis architecture firm Looney Ricks Kiss.

LRK also designed Crosstown Concourse as a whole, in the reuse of the mammoth former Sears building.

 Crosstown Concourse receives prestigious preservation award

In Dallas, the Fannie C. Harris Youth Center opened last month. The center for homeless teens and young adults provides meals, showers, a computer lab, laundry facilities, counselors and medical/mental health referrals. LRK served as architect for the project, which includes a large mural project led by LRK and designed by Rolando Diaz.

And next year, LRK-designed Kreate Space is set to open in Philadelphia. Near the city’s Fishtown community, Kreate Space will offer private and shared studio space for artists and makers.

Craig Henry, principal at LRK, said the firm embraces art as an essential element in building design.

“I think community art can create an attachment to one’s community or the building,” he said. “The effect of art on a community’s sense of place is a great reason we incorporate the public art component in our creative visioning process.”

Tony Pellicciotti, principal at LRK, said that incorporating visual arts has two distinctly different facets: one where the piece is known and another where the art piece is unknown.

“The first would be typified by collaboration with the artist so that the physical space complements the art and the art complements the physical space,” he said. “The second is about designing for inspiration and flexibility for the idea that has never been thought of before – for art.”

“We do our best to understand which kinds of artists and creatives we’re targeting in every creative/artist space project – a web designer is very different than a sculptor, so the environment must reflect the people who will make Kreate Space (or any artist space) truly theirs,” said Eli Storch, LRK project architect/project manager.

South Main Artspace Lofts consisted of new construction, as well as adaptive reuse of a former warehouse. And both Kreate Space and the Fannie C. Harris Youth Center buildings were once schools.

Adaptive reuse and historic preservation offer the opportunity to pull visual cues from the existing character and building fabric, while new construction cues can come from the neighboring community, Pellicciotti said.

“With adaptive reuse, you’re not going to know everything about the building before you get started, which requires you to be a bit more flexible,” Storch said.

ELLE PERRYMeet some of the artists who live and work in South Main Artspace

Artistic-specific spaces also mean special considerations for things like acoustics, in the case of The Doll House. It was designed to host performances, including lectures, spoken word performances, plays and school assemblies.

TOM BAILEYCrosstown christens new theater 'The Doll House'

“This is achieved through carefully crafting physical flexibility of the floor, seating and acoustic treatments,” Pellicciotti said. “Physically the floor can be flat, have a recessed orchestra pit, or configured for a number of different stage environments.  Seating shares the flexibility to mirror the floor and stage options. Acoustically, the tunable design of the room dramatically transforms to complement the performance style.”

For the Artspace project, the key was flexibility. Pellicciotti said the grand opening of the space in November showed the building’s adaptability to transform from living space to sculpture gallery to performance hall to dinner theater.

In the case of Kreate Space, LRK’s process was guided by the opportunity to work within the vintage schoolhouse to suit the creatives who will work in the building on a daily basis.

“Our goal is to make a highly functional, welcoming building that will serve as a canvas for future artists to define,” Storch said. “We never want to compete with the creative community who will bring this space to life.”

Overall, Henry said that it’s the responsibility of architects to leave communities with the best possible experience of the space.

“It’s how you make people feel,” he said.


Looney Ricks Kiss Crosstown Arts The Doll House South Main Artspace Lofts Kreate Space
Elle Perry

Elle Perry

Elle Perry covers arts and culture and other news for the Daily Memphian. She is a native of Memphis and a two-time graduate of the University of Memphis. Elle previously worked for the Memphis Business Journal and has written for publications including The Memphis Flyer and High Ground News.

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