KNBA: Transforming Reynolds Building for the UK’s College of Design

The University of Kentucky College of Design (CoD) unveiled the design for the reinvented Reynolds Building this week.

K. Norman Berry Associates (KNBA) is leading the design team in the transformation of this century-old tobacco warehouse into a vibrant and interactive learning space for design students. We are working in collaboration with national design firm Studio Gang, structural engineers Brown + Kubican, MEP engineers CMTA and landscape architects and civil engineers CARMAN.

The College has waited 50 years for a building opportunity that will allow their programs to grow, diversify, and cross-pollinate. The Reynolds building, situated at one of the most prominent entries into the city of Lexington, is set to serve as a nimble structure that teaches students about architecture, interiors, historic preservation, landscape architecture, urban design, product design, and biomedical engineering—all in a 21st-century, interconnected learning environment.

“I appreciate the cultural approach and language that Studio Gang built into the project. We move now from thinly linked monocultures to a polycultural environment and an adaptive reuse opus that symbolizes the sustainable future for which we must advocate,” said College of Design Dean Mitzi Vernon.

“KNBA has been a champion of the College of Design for over 50 years, beginning with partner emeritus Norman Berry as a member of the inaugural graduating class of 1965. Since that time, over 40 UK graduates have been valuable team members of KNBA, including all current firm leadership,” said Bob Haffermann, AIA, Managing Principal of K Norman Berry Associate Architects.

The renovation of the Reynolds Building for the College of Design continues a firm legacy of technical expertise combined with sensitive rehabilitation of structures that contributes to our collective cultural, educational, aesthetic and inspirational legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.”

The design builds on the warehouse’s existing qualities, including open floorplates and a repetitive structural grid, to maximize interaction among people and disciplines, and expand opportunities for making and experimentation.

Open studio spaces leverage the timber column grid to flexibly demarcate each studio, reinforced by mobile pin-up walls and custom furniture designed and fabricated by CoD students. Existing level changes in the building are used to create clerestories, skylights, and a flexible, double-height lecture hall. In certain areas, the existing structure is strategically cut away to create new gathering spaces, sightlines, abundant daylight, and vertical circulation. A new steel stair is inserted into the center of the building, surrounded by shared spaces and amenities – including the fabrication lab, café, and lecture hall – that encourage students, faculty, and visitors to gather and mix. Outside, a new fabrication dock creates space for large-scale making and displays these explorations to the wider University. New trees and a structural canopy provide shade and contribute to passive cooling inside the building. Geothermal wells and other green strategies contribute to the sensible deployment of environmentally conscious elements that fit within the University’s defined project construction budget.

“I believe that the most important opportunity that the Reynolds Building affords the College is to showcase how a historic building can change and be updated to ‘modern’ programmatic needs, while retaining its essential character as a utilitarian warehouse space as originally designed. The bones of the building can be treated as a historic restoration project while reflecting the educational and pedagogical direction of the College of Design as it trains future generations of designers,” said Bob Haffermann, AIA, LEED AP, Managing Principal at K. Norman Berry.

“At a time when it is essential to conserve resources and decarbonize, the work of reinventing existing buildings to serve new purposes has never been more critical,” said Jeanne Gang, FAIA, Studio Gang Founding Partner. “The Reynolds project demonstrates this idea, and takes it beyond environmental necessity, showing how re-use can also be a satisfying, creative act of design and making.”

With a storied team of designers at the helm, the College of Design is poised to enrich its offerings for future generations.

“This move to the former Reynolds Building allows the College to build a sustainable and innovative atmosphere for the evolution of design education and future generations of students while providing us the room to grow in both scope and size,” said Dean Vernon.

For updates and opportunities to support the new building, visit


Related Posts

No results found.