When the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center needed additional space for its museum galleries and classrooms, the board commissioned Tryba Architects to adapt and expand a WPA-era underground water / sewage treatment plant.
The challenge was to add more than 25,000 sf of space that respected the character of the original 1,500 sf Art Deco pump and administration building, which featured glazed brick, glass block and a 75-foot brick-venting stack. The sustainable design includes nine former underground water treatment and settling tanks that have been repurposed as the foundation for new art studios and galleries. Converting and re-using the tanks saved 20-percent of the total project cost.
A master plan for the surrounding 5 wooded acres was also developed. Phases I and II of the project were completed in 1998 and 2002. The third phase, completed in 2006, added teaching studios, two galleries, a lecture hall and the renovation of administrative offices.