Downtown Loft || Bushman Dreyfus Architects || Architect of the Year Awards 2020

Bushman Dreyfus Architects: Winner of Architect of the Year Awards 2020. Light is the theme of this minimal and modern intervention.

The oldest building on the downtown pedestrian mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, contains this minimal and modern renovation. The c.1843 three-story structure was badly in need of refurbishment — portions of the framing, roof, insulation, windows, mechanical systems, electrical and plumbing were all replaced and renewed so this building is set for service for another century or more.

What was dark commercial space with claustrophobic offices and an enclosed storage attic is now transformed into a single spacious open floor apartment with sleeping loft. Transparency from front to back is a key design intent, establishing visual access to the street trees in front and sunlight in the back. Multiple modes of direct and indirect natural lighting animate the space.

A single scaled up cabinet “box” with hidden hardware, secret doors and rooms runs nearly the entire 50-foot length of the floor and conceals the kitchen, bathroom, services and storage. All kitchen appliances disappear when not in use. Doors to the left and right of the work surface open fully for access to a wall oven and refrigerator. The wood cladding is rough sawn white oak with a light stain. The floor planks are also white oak, keeping the color and material palette to a minimum.

A window-like opening through the oak cabinet volume frames a view of the original brick masonry bearing walls offering a dramatic counterpoint of texture and color. The backsplash is completely open to a stair leading to the apartment vestibule below. In the kitchen’s opening, a low-profile stainless steel utility trough with electrical outlets runs along the edge of the counter. Functional and durable stainless-steel accessories for the kitchen and bath are custom-fabricated locally.

Although the bathroom doesn’t have an exterior window, a south-facing floor-to-ceiling sheet of glass brings borrowed light in from the skylight above the apartment entry stair.

The sleeping loft stair is both foreground and background, heavy and light, transparent and opaque. The white guardrail is a single 3/8” thick painted steel plate. The treads and risers are folded perforated steel, fixed to the vertical steel plate guard, creating a delicate, but monolithic, integrated structure.

Seven new skylights in the high ceiling fill the space with natural light. New double pane aluminum clad windows maximize the daylight openings and ensure better energy performance. New insulation under the existing roof provides thermal insulation far in excess of the code required value.

Firm || Bushman Dreyfus Architects
Project Name || Downtown Loft
Architect || Jeff Bushman
Architect of the Year Award Category || Residential Interior Built

Project Location || 118 E Main Street, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Team || Jeff Bushman, Aga Saulle
Area || 1350 sq ft (125 sqm)

Year || 2019
Consultants || Dunbar Milby Williams Pittman & Vaughan – structural engineer
Other Credits || Longview Management & Construction Co. – general contractor
Country || United States
Photography ©Credit || ©Virginia Hamrick Photography

Bushman Dreyfus Architects is located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Our firm was founded to bridge a divide between the extraordinary responsiveness of a small organization with the knowledge and depth of a larger one. We started small: the first project was a steel birdhouse designed for a charity auction in 1992, followed by winning a competition for the public amphitheater in Charlottesville. Today most of our built work is in Virginia, but we also have clients and projects in California, Florida, Liberia, Hawaii, Louisiana, and New York. Our expertise is design. Our focus is on clarity of communication. Our goal is consensus, as in E pluribus unum. Out of many voices, one.

People drive our creative process, not software or tools. Collectively, our diverse interests beyond architecture include teaching, community outreach, scenic design, dance, music, craft, graphic design, and writing. These ventures add cultural richness to our work and introduce exciting, useful perspectives to the array of effective solutions to a problem.