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Best Projects Renovation/Restoration: Calfee Building

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To re-energize its operations, Cleveland-based law firm Calfee elected to revitalize the 101-year-old Rockwell Building and relocate its offices there.

Photo Courtesy of Maguire Photography
With assistance from historic tax credits, project team members reclaimed the beaux-arts architecture of the former Rockwell Building in Cleveland.
Photo Courtesy of Maguire Photography
The Calfee Building features high-end finishes throughout, including walnut veneer wood panels, acoustical wood panels and acoustical plaster.
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Even among shopworn structures, Rockwell seemed an unlikely choice, given its lobby had been converted to parking space and surrounding columns were either missing or crumbling. Overhead, several ad-hoc enclosures obscured an original skylight. Elsewhere, elevators were stripped from their shafts, mechanical and life-safety systems were virtually nonexistent and electrical systems were outmoded. Atop the structure, damage to the roof contributed to basement flooding.

With assistance from historic tax credits, project team members reclaimed the building's Beaux-Arts architecture while equipping the facility with systems and technologies required to support a contemporary law firm.

Quality was crucial, with plans calling for walnut veneer wood panels, acoustical wood panels and acoustical plaster, in addition to marble and granite wall slabs, glass stair treads and landings, and glass paneling.

Woven into the lobby are more contemporary features, including a glass stair, custom reception desk and a 34-ft-long water feature. New glass partitions on the first and second floors achieve the transparency desired to highlight historic lobby elements, including stone columns and floors.

On floors above, a conference center and collaborative spaces are designed to promote creativity. Other spaces support multiple functions, including meetings, teleconferences and seminars.

One overriding criterion was the alignment of centerlines and edges among new and existing elements. The axis of the water feature, for instance, aligns with the center of an existing window.

Craftsmanship is evident throughout. In one instance, the ornamental metal subcontractor meticulously crafted 22 splayed, oval-shaped light bollards to illuminate the lobby. In another, the millworker collaborated with the architect to develop wood cubes that dominate a lounge and cafe.

Calfee Building, Cleveland Key Players

Owner: Calfee, Cleveland

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