Raleigh Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) Round 4

Preserving the Warehouse District

June, 06, 2008, by Mark

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We brought you the first look at the original Pugh+Scarpa/Clearscapes designs for Raleigh’s anticipated Contemporary Art Museum (CAM). Last night, a new set of plans was revealed to the public—at least the fourth different scheme we’ve seen in the past few years.

click the image for slideshow

The residential element of the project is gone, and the building is a renovation of the current space, with the addition of a porch and lobby area.  The existing parking lot will become a garden and open space for public and event use.  The interior retains the existing building and its large, original steel trusses.  The current building has three different levels and, as seen in the renderings, by cutting a large piece of the top floor out, the design connects all three levels, creating a more dynamic space for art and gathering.

This should be a good addition to the Warehouse District, which is becoming increasingly saturated with arts and culture.  The first Pugh+Scarpa design would demolish the existing building—another step towards a loss of history and industrial vibe for the neighborhood. In whatever form, CAM has the potential to increase the number of events, foot traffic, and business for this area. When asked if the residential component was still in the long-term plans for CAM, Louis Cherry mentioned that the museum would either seek to develop the parking lot adjacent to the existing building, or seek another site altogether in attempt to realize a project which would align more with the spirit of the previous design that we’ve seen.

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  • Jim
    06/06 05:46 PM

    boo, hiss.

  • RaleighRob
    06/06 05:50 PM

    Sad to see the residential component removed.  That could have been very helpful for the Warehouse District to get more of.
    But otherwise, it looks like an OK design.

  • Rusty
    06/06 07:58 PM

    Those renderings leave something to be desired… but that covered outdoor space could quite possibly make up for it (if it’s actually used.)

    I second the “Sad to see the residential component removed.” Not that Raleigh needs more condos necessarily, but something semi-affordable on that side of town could be quite nice.

  • David
    06/06 08:44 PM

    Oh good they got rid of anything that could be mistaken for interesting.  The original renderings were awesome because they brought something outlandish and different to the copy+paste buildings dotting that area.  Now it looks like a public library.. wait, no, Cameron Library is way cooler.

  • Betsy
    06/06 10:38 PM

    The huge planter barricading the entry area, along with the reflective glass windows baldly facing the sidewalk, are two of the worst practices of mid-70’s anti-urbanism in site design.  They betray a misunderstanding of what an urban setting should be. 

    Cheers for saving and rehabbing the existing warehouse buildings.

    I would just ask for a more sophisticated approach to streetscape design in that entry plaza, to match the urbane and contemporary art that will no doubt fill the museum’s interior.

  • the truth
    06/06 10:49 PM

    these architects need a typography lesson.

  • Rusty
    06/07 12:30 AM

    MOST architects need a typography lesson :)

  • Meredith
    06/07 01:07 AM

    “to match the urbane and contemporary art that will no doubt fill the museum’s interior.”

    Well, according to those interior sketches, the space is filled with Jeff Koons, a Rothko and some other AbEx pieces that look pretty dated themselves.

  • Raborn McNamara
    06/07 01:55 PM

    The scale back in CAM’s scope, I think, was due to the pulling out of developer, Grubb Properties.  The housing and lending climate change revealed that the project was no longer financially viable. (The big egg-shaped object in the former renderings was probably never viable from the budget set by the client anyway). 

    Another example of that is the proposed Reynolds tower on the corner of Hillsborough and Dawson Streets where a big gaping hole in the ground now resides.  That building isn’t going up anytime soon b/c the banks decreased the percentage they were willing to lend on the project’s cost. 

    Regardless, CAM is arguably an underfinanced agency (due just as much to their own bungling as to a lack of support of public art in the area) who will be challenged to even pull this modest scope off…

  • DPK
    06/07 03:42 PM

    I have mixed feels.  One, bravo on attempting to save an aspect of the warehouse district.  Two, the design kind of doesn’t draw me into the space at all.  It just feels so dated.  That and a lack of a residential component.  That is what made this project originally so interesting.  Find a new developer to partner with if that’s the problem.

  • Jedidiah
    06/07 04:30 PM

    What does this have to do with typography?  Please explain ‘the truth’

  • Raborn McNamara
    06/07 04:39 PM

    Other developers were sought…the market is just soft enough now….

    Other than projects already underconstruction, have you heard or seen movement on other downtown residential projects?  No body is sticking their neck out when the odds are so high for a loss….

  • Christopher Triplett
    06/08 02:57 PM

    Bus Station?

    The interior options are limited, so removing a portion of the upper floor is probably the best option for an update and a space unification.

    The massive awning is the most overused architectural element I can think of.

    If it looks like this when complete, people aren’t going in.  If there is too little funding to take this all the way, then the project needs to wait.



  • joshua
    06/08 03:10 PM

    i can help with the type!
    architecturally speaking, i’d prefer the hive. like that particular design or not, it was intriguing given the warehouse context.

  • DPK
    06/08 03:50 PM

    Unless they can come up with something a bit more “unique” then I suggest they wait longer on this project.  There’s so much potential here and what was the residential component.

    They’ve sat on this project for so long already, another year wouldn’t hurt.  In a sense they kind of designed themselves into a hole.

  • CVB
    06/09 01:56 AM

    That’s not an awning, it’s a security barricade.

    And the rest of the design - well, I guess if funding for the operations of the museum falls apart or attendance flags, the building is well suited to house a Kwik-E-Mart.

  • CVB
    06/09 01:59 AM

    Oh, and nice placement of the trashcan as an obstruction to pedestrian traffic. Pedestrian traffic calming? (Yes, I know it’s just a trash can and can easily be moved, but the fact that the architects were insensitive to this in the rendition may be a sign of bigger issues.)

  • Dan R
    06/09 03:19 PM

    It looks like Exploris. I liked the cracked sidewalk.

  • Robb L.
    06/10 03:23 AM

    I might be crazy but I think I am 100% more likely to go to this CAM than the one we currently have.  Sure the beehive was cool, but the funding isn’t there.  I think its good that they have decided to do something that they might can pull off.  Who knows, maybe this will lead to a coffee shop, some loft condos, a second hand store, a bar, etc etc etc.  I think Raleigh needs to think less about design if such process always leads to delay.  Don’t get me wrong, if we could afford to clone Frak Lloyd Wright and have him design a space that would certainly draw people, but I am hopeful that just having a space to exhibit interesting art will bring people to the space.  Here’s to hoping that this project actually happens and that the warehouse district gets a boost from it.

  • Jedidiah
    06/10 04:50 PM

    “Who knows, maybe this will lead to a coffee shop, some loft condos, a second hand store, a bar, etc etc etc….Here’s to hoping that this project actually happens and that the warehouse district gets a boost from it.”

    Here, Here, Robb!

  • Christopher Triplett
    06/10 04:55 PM

    Word!  Totally agree with you both.

  • Arthur
    06/14 01:25 PM

    Why would anyone want to live in the middle of a club/ resturant area? Only young single people? But can they afford a 300sq foot $550,000 condo?

  • Raborn McNamara
    06/14 01:38 PM

    The same reason someone might live a block off of Columbus Circle in NYC or along Michigan Ave. in Chicago…..some people are actually exhilarated by the 24/7 qualities, or the mixed layers of business, retail and recreational elements of a working city….we’ve got plenty of choices for a quiet, listen-to-the-crickets-on-your-one-acre plot-in-the-burbs….let’s provide a RANGE of environments to choose from.

    Also, I’m not sure if we’re REALLY at a point where square footage costs are in excess of $1800/sf (the math if you take Arthur’s figures, above).....probably closer to $300-400 a square foot, however….and we still have yet to offer real choices for a diversity of incomes!

  • Raborn McNamara
    06/14 01:40 PM

    I fogot:  and we need to offer real choices for families!

  • Raborn McNamara
    06/20 06:27 PM

    an historically contextual look over at RDUWTF:


  • JRD
    01/12 10:17 PM

    If funding is the problem, why now build the beehive thing and let the residential part wait.  Who gives a crap about the old structure?  The whole world now is all about moving into the future, but in the so many cases we cling to the past, like in this case.  There are plenty of old warehouses in that area.  I should have known something like this would happen.  This design will do nothing for the area or draw anyone to the CAM.
    If you cant find the funding….WAIT FOR IT!

  • Raborn McNamara
    01/13 09:01 AM

    In the Historic Depot District, there are approximately 15 contributing warehouse buildings.  CAM’s existing building adds one more to the list as the National Park Service has approved the application as a contributing structure.  The notion of “plenty of old warehouses” is really a misperception as the most highly visible warehouses, the ones along the western extent of West Street, are not protected, not contributing to the district, owned by TTA and will be torn down to accommodate the new commuter rail if and when it occurs.  North of Martin Street, there is only the other Dillon Supply Warehouse between West and Harrington (non-contributing) and the Buckhead Saloon Warehouse (also, non-contributing).  The boundary of the district is very distinct as it reaches down Dawson street to grab those few brick storefronts/warehouses between Davie and Cabarrus because there really isn’t a critical mass of structures west of Dawson.

    Personally, I think its ironic we even have a district, but as you may recall, the vernacular “West End” or “Warehouse District” transformed itself into the “Historic Depot District” with the restoration of NCRR’s Depot opposite the Amtrak station (now home to Ess Lounge and the newly reopened Jibarra).  Being self-proclaimed as one of the most distinctive of all the warehouses, its still strange that the entire neighborhood’s focal point comes to one structure.  But then again, there are not many to behold. 

    I have been in the CAM building and the space is pretty freakin’ awesome.  The existing steel trusses in there are an incredible site to behold and it looks like they will feature prominently in the final design.

    I for one reject the notion of any further housing until somebody starts to find a way to construct median income units for the rest of us regular folk.  The units in the behive were NOT affordable for regular people unless you wanted to live in an unfinished and unfurnished white box.

  • CJT
    01/13 10:12 AM

    Those warehouses have very ltitle aesthetic value. They are nothing like the tobacco factories of Durham.  Steel trusses are interesting but is an adaptive reuse space appropriate for an art museum?  We need striking architecture in Raleigh.  If that means some old steel/brick boxes torn down, all of Raleigh should be quite comfortable with it.  As to money (in agreement), wait for it.



  • JrD
    01/13 11:24 PM

    I agree with CJT.  No aesthetic value at all.  We are probably the only city who would turn down great opportunities for old warehouses.  Why not recycle the old warehous and somehow incorporate the old design onto that, behive and all?  I think that would actually be cooler than the original behive idea.

  • Raborn McNamara
    01/14 08:01 AM

    Well, the reality, kids, is if they don’t do this now, it will probably never happen.  CAM’s got a large amount of the funds raised to get this to happen.  Without a housing market—to return who knows when—would mean the Museum may have to way 5+ years just to start the process over. This is after almost 20 years of squandering political and cultural support.

    In other words, the iron’s hot.  It ain’t gonna ever be this hot again.  These are the facts.

    Second thing to consider is the well-proportioned parking lot to the west of the building.  Its not a coincidence that this is not being touched in this phase is it?  Looks like a site ripe with potential for a future tower/architectural orgasm as y’all seem to want to have.  If this is the case, I favor the far richer potential textures of existing mixed with new versus a singular architectural blob of any kind.

    Oh, and the beehive was WAY unaffordable…to build…..to meet the proforma for unit sales to median/high income buyers.  I’ll say it again, we need more affordable middle income opportunities downtown.

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