Preserve the past in a room of the future – Kentucky Kernel

The faculty and students at the UK College of Design are looking forward to their new home

Less than a half-mile from the edge of the north campus, a 100-year-old brick building stands empty, surrounded by a chain link fence and warning signs that read “Reynolds #1, College of Design.”

The Reynolds Building, an old tobacco warehouse, will soon house all of the College of Design’s programs and studio space.

“It’s essentially a two-story shell. We are able to create something new without destroying valuable historical structures,” said Ned Crankshaw, Acting Dean of the College of Design.

The Reynolds Building, recently renamed the Gray Design Building, is located on the edge of campus on Scott Street. The Hochschule für Gestaltung will move after the renovation work has been completed by the end of 2023.

The current renovations are made possible by several donations, most notably a $5.25 million donation from Gray Inc., the parent company of 12 smaller engineering, design and construction companies.

Turning a historic warehouse into a state-of-the-art university is no easy task. The College of Design is determined to preserve the building’s character, enhancing its history while renovating the space through a process called adaptive reuse.

Huff explained that adaptive reuse occurs when a historic building is renovated for a use other than its original purpose.

“You can keep a building historical, but it has to have the same use. But when you adaptively reuse it, it’s like converting it to another function,” Huff said.

Huff was one of the students in a preservation group that documented the condition of the building just before the renovation began in August 2022.

Students and faculty alike are very excited about the move to a single, modern space dedicated to the College of Design, where there will be more space for creativity and collaboration.

Many students said they were eager to experiment with the new machines, including a new laser cutter and more 3D printers.

“Our store space is set to triple and they have all the new machines just coming in. Whenever this technology is available to you, it opens up your realm of possibilities in what you can create,” said Taylor-Beth Huff, sophomore architecture student.

First-year interior design student Noah Sprout said what he enjoys most is a large, shared space where students can work together.

“The whole design is in one big building, and it’s also a lot more space than we have now,” Sprout said. “Learning how to work together in school is great because you can then transfer that to the real world.”

Cranshaw echoed Sprout’s belief that a spirit of collaboration and teamwork will be encouraged around the new building.

“Our students will all work very closely with the other disciplines in their careers. Just seeing what everyone is doing will improve their own work to understand the larger dimension of design,” he said.

The Acting Dean also spoke about how the new engagement with multiple parts of the design process and interaction with new media will allow the college’s students to be more versatile and better equipped to enter the workforce.

Understanding the relatedness of the design domains isn’t the only connection students will make through the expanded studio spaces in the Gray Design Building. The new facility will also connect students and the university to the Lexington area.

Huff said many of the professors at the College of Design coordinate community projects alongside their teaching at the University of Kentucky. Sometimes they can share this work with students, but having a building closer to downtown Lexington will help the professors integrate student involvement into this work to a greater extent.

“It’s not just an investment in the school, it’s an investment in the community,” Huff said.