Bruner/Cott & Associates has reworked a former 1925 brick steam plant into a 6,500-square-foot industrial student event space, the Powerhouse, at Amherst College in Amherst, Ma. The classic coal-fired steam plant had remained in use until the 1960s, when it was succeeded by a more modern gas and oil-fired plant nearby. Thereafter, the structure had been used minimally as a garage. The $3 million, historically sensitive renovation preserves the bones of the plant, originally designed by the venerable firm McKim, Mead & White, while introducing mixed-use functionality.
Located adjacent to a planned residential square, the reconfigured Powerhouse accommodates performances, parties, coffee houses, dinners, farmers’ markets, speakers, and dances. Flexible furniture, lighting, and sound systems allow for a varied range of activities.
A new landscape concept connects the interior of the structure to a paved exterior terrace with natural amphitheater seating for outdoor events and spill-over from indoor social activities. Additions include a pergola wing for restrooms and food service support.
Natural ventilation and and waste heat recovery systems from existing utilities were also incorporated. The building’s structural modifications included removal of its columns and seismic upgrades.
“The Powerhouse project is an example of the value of reimagining buildings to give them second lives,” said principal-in-charge Simeon Bruner in a press release. “It actively demonstrates how historic preservation and new construction can work hand in hand.”