Campus News

Studio Gang to Transform Former Reynolds Building for College of Design

rendering of College of Design space after major renovation of the Reynolds Building -- showing tables and workspaces in large open area.
rendering of College of Design space after major renovation of the Reynolds Building -- showing staircase and tall ceilings.
Reynolds Building. Photo by Pete Comparoni | UKphoto

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 2, 2021) — The University of Kentucky College of Design (CoD) has unveiled Studio Gang’s design for the reinvented Reynolds Building. Working in collaboration with Louisville-based architect of record K. Norman Berry Associates (KNBA), Studio Gang will transform the century-old tobacco warehouse into a vibrant and interactive learning space for design students.

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 artifact that teaches students about architecture, interiors, historic preservation, landscape architecture, urban design, product design and biomedical engineering — all in a 21st-century, polycultural 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.

“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.”

The design builds on Reynolds’ 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.

“KNBA has been a champion of the CoD 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 CoD 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.”

With a storied team of designers at the helm, the CoD 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,” Vernon said.

For updates and opportunities to support the new building, visit

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