Art school design by Manchester’s Dennis Mires, P.A., wins NH architecture award
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
A Manchester firm took top honors from the New Hampshire chapter of the American Institute of Architects Jan. 19.
Dennis Mires, P.A., The Architects of Manchester was awarded an Honor Award of Excellence in Architecture for Adaptive Reuse at the AIANH 23rd annual awards banquet at New Hampshire Institute of Art for work they did for that school.
AIANH has more than 180 architect members, the majority of the architects in the state.
The downtown Manchester NHIA building, on Amherst Street, houses eight drawing and painting studios, two ceramics studios, the student store, student gallery, student lounge, faculty offices and support space. Construction manager for the project was Milestone Engineering & Construction, Inc.
Mires said that once his firm found the building could support an additional floor, they created it in a different material “so we wouldn’t diminish the qualities of the original building.” They also found they could reuse the stairway and freight elevator to meet ADA compliance and retain floor space.
Asked if it was easy to identify with the needs of an art school, Mires said, “They were a great client ... It was kind of a background building,” mill-like with wood columns and open floor space. The redesign left those aspects exposed “so the art students can see the way the building goes together,” Mires said.
“But we basically did a lot of walls with tackable surfaces so when you go over there most of the color is provided by the artwork,” Mires said. They essentially left the students a blank canvas. “The building lent itself to that, which was useful as well,” Mires said.
Jurors wrote, “This design is honest, meets the program very well, and serves as a beacon for art in the community. The project is respectful of and celebrates the bones of the original structure. It has a nice, simple interior space, perfect for an art school. The design is also clever; the added floor is a good solution and readily usable for studio space. The architects are commended for keeping this at $100 a square foot.”
The building has also earned Mires a design award from the Manchester Historic Association. “They thought it was an innovative way of adding new space and dramatizing the original building,” Mires said.
Dennis Mires P.A. The Architects was founded in 1980 and has a staff of eight. They’ve done design work for public, nonprofit, community, industrial, retail and residential projects including Bedford Public Library, St. Paul’s School, a headquarters building for Mt. Washington Observatory and the Derryfield Country Club.