Editor’s Note: A version of this story was published in the Fall 2022 issue of Extant, a publication of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.
Dina Wind Foundation
A Grand Jury Winner in the Alliance’s 2022 Preservation Achievement Awards, the Dina Wind Foundation elegantly converted a 100-year-old stable in South Philadelphia into a multipurpose arts space and community resource. Interior designer Barbara Eberlein, who oversaw the renovation, and collaborator Gabrielle Canno, principal of Canno Design, talk about the experience.
Extant Magazine (EM): What attracted you to this particular building/site?
Gabrielle Canno (GC): A wonderful client is always the most important part of a project, and it’s even better when you have a wonderful building too. The building had great bones. We were really excited to enhance the history that had already been there and give it a new life.
Barbara Eberlein (BE): The opportunity to create a vibrant, multiuse space as a central creative engine for the arts community’s development.
EM: What was the building/site’s original use?
BE: The building was originally a late 19th century horse stable adjacent to a historic firehouse.
GC: After it had been a firehouse, it had been renovated as a live/work apartment space.
EM: What was most important to preserve?
BE: The design team was committed to preserving the original character, details, and finishes, including original steel and ribbed glass windows, beamed ceilings, exposed brick walls, wide-plank pine floors, and the exterior ornamental cornice.
EM: What was the client’s original vision? Did it change over time?
BE: The client envisioned a space that would serve as a resource for the Philadelphia arts community and a magnet for the thriving neighborhood where it is located. The design team realized a perfect home for current business and philanthropic efforts, while anticipating future growth and evolution.
GC: The client, John Wind, is a very talented and multifaceted entrepreneur and artist. This space gave him an opportunity to combine all of his passions in one building. The original vision was for an office on the first floor, an artist space on the second floor, and an exhibition space in the garage. Then the program evolved to incorporate his late mother Dina Wind’s work as well. So, terrace space and the grass outdoors became exhibition space too.
EM: What was the biggest preservation challenge?
BE: The biggest preservation challenge was designing for maximum flexibility to serve many functions. The goal was to be adaptable for future growth, while causing minimal impact on original materials still extant.
GC: Changing the use of an existing building is frequently challenging because the building code has the same requirements for the existing building as a new construction building. The building code required the new stair to be in a two-hour rated enclosure. To meet this requirement, while maintaining the character of the existing space and the openness for the program, took creativity. We used a two-hour rated steel garage door along the side of the stair that would close in case of an emergency.
EM: Did you look to any role model for inspiration or example?
BE: We were inspired by many celebrated adaptive reuse projects around the city, notably the BOK building and the Crane Arts building.
EM: What was the project’s biggest surprise (good or bad)?
GC: The steel garage door we installed to conform to code has added unexpected flexibility to the spaces. Typically, the garage door is left up so the open stair connects the first and second floors. However, when there is an event on the second floor, the garage door is closed and offers security and privacy to the first-floor office space. It has been a wonderful surprise.
BE: The real bonus for the design team was that despite the challenges of space, budget, schedule, and city requirements, the final results seemed effortless and inevitable, with delineated, yet flowing spaces that are the physical expression of the owner’s desire for inspiration and integration of all his creative endeavors.