When a renovation project involves challenging preexisting conditions, our team embraces the creative tools at our disposal–and inspiration from the natural world leads the charge. A recent brick facade renovation in downtown Carbondale inspired me to begin the design by walking around a Grand Junction brickyard last July. I wanted to think about bricks with more immersion into their world. On I-70, outside of Grand Junction, you see a nuanced cliff band sporting a muted rainbow of brick-y colors that all blend beautifully but also hold their own: sage-grey, buff, turmeric, terra cotta. The brick plants are located close to their clay because transportation costs are a big consideration. 


At the brickyard, I chatted with the supplier about the manufacturers and their various pros and cons, their plants, and their locations. The beauty of brick is how well it suits itself to context. The chalky clink of a brick in your hand, and a conversation face to face with someone who works with bricks was, effectively, design process. I came away from the experience thinking – Don’t overdo it. Be straightforward. Bricks are straightforward. 


This renovation is of a wood-clad 1976 building on Main Street in Carbondale, Colorado. The remodel will provide much-needed brick infill to a portion of Main street that was lacking in continuity. Here’s the challenge: I’m trying to make this facade do something essentially brick, something only brick can do. When wood does wood and brick does brick, it’s just more beautiful. 


But it’s a challenge here because this building does not follow the historic forms of Main street. This building is all horizontals and low ceilings while the surrounding context is all vertical lines, with lofty 15’ ceilings for the ground floor commercial spaces. So a decision is posed – do you paint on the look of the old, or accept the building the way it is?


In this case, we are embracing the building as it is. No fake-old here. No fake anything. There is a classic architectural story of Louis Kahn’s conversation with a brick.  And in this story, Louis and the brick have a conversation in which the brick prefers to be an arch above all else. In our Carbondale facade remodel design, we sought a conversation with the bricks that honors their way of being. These remodel bricks will not be offered the opportunity to arch. Arching is about being structure. Arching is about holding up the wall above so that light or air or people can pass through below the arch. Our remodel bricks are resting on steel lintels and,  whether or not this is their preference, it is authentic, and that’s the bedrock for any design.