University of Kentucky College of Design

Lexington, KY, USA

Under Construction

University of Kentucky


132,000 sf


At a time when it is essential to conserve resources and decarbonize, reinventing existing buildings to serve new purposes has never been more critical. This project for the University of Kentucky College of Design (CoD) demonstrates how the act of fabrication can resonantly bridge between old and new as it transforms a century-old tobacco warehouse into a 21st-century, cross-disciplinary learning environment.

The original warehouse building—with its open interior floors, repetitive structural grid, and distinct moments of sectional variation—offers a promising framework for uniting all of the CoD’s departments for the first time and accommodating future growth. To maximize interaction among people and disciplines, and expand opportunities for making and experimentation, the design both harnesses these existing conditions and bends them in a new direction.

A multi-directional steel stair and voids at different scales are inserted into the structure to create new gathering areas, as well as abundant daylight, sightlines, and physical connections between levels. Open studio spaces use the original timber columns, along with mobile pin-up walls and furniture designed and fabricated by CoD students, to demarcate each studio while staying visible and flexible for all. Shared tools and amenities, including a café and double-height lecture hall, are clustered near the building’s center to encourage students, faculty, and visitors to mix.

A central stair is inserted into the building to create new spaces for gathering and circulation on all levels,

Outside, a new fabrication dock allows students and faculty to try out new forms of large-scale making while putting design on display to the wider University community. New trees and a structural canopy with subtly anthropomorphic steel members provide shade while also diminishing heat gain and contributing to passive cooling. A geothermal well system further lowers the building’s reliance on the energy grid.

From the detail scale upward, the project aims to demonstrate that reconciling past and future isn’t simply a matter of environmental necessity, it can also be a satisfying creative act of design and making.

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.

Design and Consultant Team

K. Norman Berry Associates, associate architect, architect of record

Brown + Kubican, structural engineer

CMTA, MEP/FP engineer, AV/IT, security

Carman, landscape architect, civil engineer

PritchardPeck Lighting, lighting designer

Robert Pass & Associates, quantity surveyor

Ayoroa Simmons, 3D laser scanning

Endris Engineering, surveyor

Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, acoustic consultant

Turner Construction, general contractor



Lexington Herald Leader — "See How UK Plans to Transform 100-year-old Reynolds Building into Modern College of Design"

“The University of Kentucky offered a glimpse at the coming transformation of a defunct, 145,000-square-foot former tobacco warehouse into the modernized home for the university’s College of Design.”


​$5.2 Million Gift from Gray, Inc., Will Create New Home for UK College of Design

A transformative gift of more than $5.2 million will create a vibrant new new home for the University of Kentucky’s College of Design out of an old tobacco warehouse in Lexington.