The Warehouse Co-Working Space’s Newest Renovation

An adaptive reuse, The Warehouse marries modern design with historic architecture.

Loccated in an 1868 cotton warehouse in the Bywater, The Warehouse co-working space required extensive renovations prior to opening in 2015.

The owners, Albert Walsh and Steve Nutting, wanted a space with a sense of community, and when they found the building in 2011, they knew it was the perfect spot.

In the middle of the acquisition, however, the building’s façade — as well as part of what is now the main atrium — collapsed. Thanks to some quick thinking on Walsh’s part (with help from The Green Project and the New Orleans City Council), the building was saved from total demolition.

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The owners brought in Tracie Ashe, partner at Practis (formerly studioWTA) to provide full architectural design services for the restoration and renovation of the building. Work included space planning, zoning research and feasibility studies for several potential tenants. Others on the team included architectural design director Wayne Troyer, architectural designer Toni DiMaggio and independent interior designer Erin Allen.

During the space-planning process, the team decided to place the co-working space in the back of the building, and a restaurant (Capulet) in the front. Other additions included a new rooftop deck and shared restrooms.

The open, central atrium features a rooftop monitor with clerestory-style windows that flood the interior with natural light. Hanging steel bike racks provide safe storage inside.

While most of the interior walls were rebuilt, an original brick wall with two metal fire doors is original and now separates The Warehouse and Capulet. Most of the interior beams, columns and joists — along with the concrete slab floor — are also original, but an existing second floor was removed to create an open atrium. The rooftop monitor, with its clerestory-style windows, floods the interior with natural light and was fully restored in place.

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“We started with a beautiful space that needed to be clean and functional, [but] we wanted to embrace the existing building and materials,” said René Merino, artist and manager of The Warehouse.

The design plan called for creating modern workspaces throughout the historic building.

“In order to highlight the original wood, brick and concrete, new materials were chosen for their texture and lightness: translucent polycarbonate to filter light and hint at space beyond; light colors to help with interior illumination; warm wood trim and accents to bring a tactile experience; and fabric panels to help with acoustic absorption,” Ashe said. “The intent is that a visitor can understand which parts of the building are original and which are part of the renovation. It is easy to see how the new elements could be removed and the warehouse returned to its original state without any loss of significant historic materials.”

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The space now includes 25 private offices along three sides of the interior perimeter (available on six-month leases). These offices can be joined to make larger offices, and feature sliding glass doors that allow views from the center of The Warehouse. Meanwhile, three private conference rooms (available by the hour to both members and guests) sport acoustically private, translucent polycarbonate wall panels. These custom-built panels serve as oversized elements to underscore the vertical proportions of the warehouse space.

The Warehouse’s original brick and wood building serves as an interesting backdrop for new, modern materials that bring the space into the 21st century.

The center of the space houses 30 individual desks (available to rent by the month), four co-working tables (16 spots available for day passes), a full kitchen with island seating, a copier and mailbox areas, two lounges, lockers and hanging steel bicycle racks. Two phone rooms and three phone booths also are available for private calls.

When it came to the interior design, the industrial look of the building provided inspiration. For example, pre-renovation photos of the building — including one of the collapsed façade — are prominently displayed.

“One of our design principles was about creating a quiet foundation for work, so we tried to keep it visually simple rather than create a design that would compete for attention,” Allen said. “I joked that our color palette was white, wood and plants, but that honestly helped guide a lot of the decisions.”

Together, the architectural and interior design work together to create a calm, comfortable and focused environment.

“Walking into The Warehouse, you can immediately read and understand the original brick and wood building, over which is layered the new program [that] transforms a wide, open space to one that feels welcoming and conducive to creativity and collaboration,” Ashe said.

“It feels good in here, so it makes working more pleasurable,” Merino added. “We currently have 24 businesses, nonprofits and organizations in our offices (we have one office available) and another couple dozen people that have desks or share our co-working tables. Their industries range from the arts, education and community-based nonprofits to construction, accounting, real estate, journalism, insurance and law. It’s fun to see relationships develop among our members.”

The Warehouse 3014 Dauphine St. // @thewarehousenola

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