Rethink, Restore, and Repurpose: A New Design for K-State’s Historic Seaton Hall Complex
Walking through BNIM, there is an unmistakable presence — chipboard models with columns of Corinthian order, original blueprints (yes, the blue kind), and LED monitors lit with laser scans of buildings detailed enough to show the exact split-face depth of 1870s limestone blocks. These unique interactions between old and new fuel BNIM’s passion for renovations and adaptive reuse projects.
Working on aging buildings reveals one common truth: each has its own incredible story. BNIM, in partnership with Ennead Architects, is completing a renovation and addition to two historic buildings at Kansas State University. Seaton Hall (1922) and Seaton Court (1874) are both categorized by the Kansas Board of Regents as among the bottom tenth percentile in average building condition relative to their campus as a whole. This particular project explores how a complex of dissimilar historic buildings can be repurposed and expanded to support evolving educational approaches across architecture, landscape, interior, and planning programs.
Now, one year into construction, we’ve seen it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Conceptually speaking, inserting a library, design studios, critique spaces, offices, and a nearly 300-seat auditorium into two of the oldest campus buildings in the state has revealed a powerful story of adaptive reuse and the enduring lifecycle of buildings. Pragmatically speaking, the lessons learned are equally compelling. The following is a brief overview of our story:
FINDING AND CREATING SYMBIOSIS
The major components of this project are, from far to near: the renovation of Seaton East; the new Seaton Addition, designed to appear as its contemporary appurtenance; “The Jewel,” an open-volume container intended to act as a welcoming front door; and the renovation of Mechanics Hall. Both components of new construction take the place of the entirely demolished Seaton Court building. Fundamentally, each building is celebrated for what it is, but at various scales there is a careful cross-pollination of character and experience.
DISCOVERIES AND OPPORTUNITIES
In “The Starting Point (Cloud)”, we’ve discussed how BNIM leverages point cloud technologies in our new building and renovation projects (bnim.com/blog/starting-point-cloud). Even with this technology, we found many surprises when we began to peel back the layers: centuries-old brick foundations, mortar so weak it could be removed by hand, a ziggurat-esque 30’x30’x15’ underground foundation, and a massive anvil once used to test the compressive strength of materials (above). That said, for every unanticipated condition we thoughtfully honored the idiosyncrasies of these historic buildings.
Today, our built environment is strewn with historic spaces that take our breath away, make us feel small, and prompt the question, “Where did all of the real craftsmen go?” But the unfortunate truth is that a growing number of these spaces no longer suit and inspire, or keep their users safe. As designers, our most powerful tool is problem solving. At BNIM, we believe the success of these projects can be measured by how we embrace existing conditions and allow new generations to imprint their own story.
Posted to bnim.com.
Nadav Bittan received a Master of Architecture from Kansas State University in 2014 and works at BNIM.