We have been busy here at Hatch with a variety of really interesting and challenging projects – right up our alley. One of the latest, slated to begin construction toward the end of June, is the reconstruction of Grand Forks City Hall. A fire in September of 2013 caused significant damage to City Hall, gutting the entire main floor (housing the Administration Offices), and causing significant smoke damage to the second floor (housing City Council Offices and Council Chambers). The fire was put out in time to keep the structure sound and intact, leaving a shell of the offices that were once on the main floor.
A fire is a dramatic and tragic event; luckily it was quickly under control and no one was injured. Once cleared out and safe for re-entry, the space that was left behind showed the City that they had a tremendous opportunity on their hands and Hatch joined the team to help in the redesign of their interior. What the fire uncovered were original 14’-0” high concrete columns leading to a vaulted ceiling, interior brick walls begging to be exposed, and a chance to showcase it all.
The growing settlement of Grand Forks in the late 19th century and early 20th century goes hand-in-hand with the mining and railroad boom. During this time three railroads, multiple mines, smelters and power plants formed the bulk of industry in the area. It is interesting to read about the evolution of this small City of around 4000 people, with an area population of over
10 000. It was quite the industrial hub 100 years ago, and still is today with a focus in wood and insulation manufacturing. Around the same time, Grand Forks saw a large Doukhobor population move to the area, buying large pieces of rich farmland and focusing on agriculture.
Originally the post office, Grand Forks City Hall was constructed in 1913.
The building itself was built in 1913 and was first home to the post office. The heavy stone base, red brick walls, detailed sills, lintels and cornice, and copper-clad clock tower make up the registered heritage exterior.
While Grand Forks is rich in history and culture, they are also progressive and forward thinking aiming to grow and strengthen the community “through business retention, expansion and attraction”. For their new offices they wanted to honour both of these important aspects through the interior design.
They were also very interested in sustainability through incorporating energy efficient fixtures, recycled, reclaimed and natural materials, and using local talent and material where possible.
A view of the interior as we saw it last. Look at the amazing space we have to work with!
It was obvious to us that the best approach to convey this was to emphasize the beautiful historic detail uncovered by the fire by contrasting it with contemporary and simple components, materials and forms.
Pre-fire, the 14’-0” high original concrete columns were hidden behind walls and suspended acoustic tile, the interior brick wall dividing the main floor was completely concealed in plaster, the inner offices had no access to natural daylight, and years of partial renovations had left some awkward spatial configurations. Needless to say, the fire resulted in a clean slate from which to design a space that celebrated the past, looked to the future and addressed some of the problems the pre-fire office had.
Main floor offices layout.
Grand Forks has recently rebranded, part of which is a modern black and white logo and sleek website. This helped to inform our material palette which consists of black and white carpet, wall finishes, countertops and ceilings. We introduced some wood tones in the public area flooring, reception desk and storage millwork throughout to warm things up. We also incorporated a tonne of glass for two reasons, a) to maintain the contemporary contrast to the historical elements and b) to allow some natural light to filter into the interior offices.
View of the reception desk from the main entry.
In the new layout we were able to emphasize the original columns, in need of some restoration, by leaving them as standalone pieces framing the reception desk from either point of entry. The reception desk is representative of both the contemporary and historic with clean, rectangular lines, locally manufactured black concrete worksurfaces made from slag, a by-product of the smelting process (and found lying in huge piles where a copper smelting company was once located on the outskirts of the city), and digitally printed wood veneer with an image of post office pigeon holes like were used to sort mail in its time as a post office.
The historic columns frame the reception desk.
When we were originally on site doing an inventory of the main floor we could see grout still intact that once held the iconic hexagon mosaic tile to the floor. We saw this as an opportunity to incorporate the old hexagon form in a new way. Hexagon shaped carpet tile will be applied throughout the office area, both on the main and second floors, and larger format black and white hexagon-shaped porcelain tile by Julian Tile in the entrance vestibules and washrooms. For the flooring in the public area we have specified reclaimed hemlock, a nod to the past and a sustainable option.
A look at the material palette, clockwise from top left: Quartz acoustic screen by Karl Andersson; Extro tile in a random mix of black and white by Julian Tile, Bevel Hexagon by Shaw Contract Group; reclaimed rustic hemlock hardwood by Back In Time Flooring; black slag concrete countertops by Alchemy Stone out of Grand Forks; Lounge wallcovering by Chilewich; and Diamond Wire Glass by GlasPro.
We are looking forward to seeing this one come to life. We will be sure to share pictures and keep you updated through the construction process.
» Does your commercial interior need an update? We can help. Contact Hatch Interior Design located in Kelowna, British Columbia – Because Good Design is Good Business™.