A landmark building in the Michigan capital of Lansing, Knapp’s Centre is one of the largest, most significant examples of Streamline Art Moderne architecture in the state.
The iconic downtown structure opened in 1937 as the J.W. Knapp department store and had been vacant for more than ten years prior to the $36 million urban renewal effort led by Quinn Evans Architects for the Eyde Company. This innovative adaptive reuse created first-floor restaurant/retail space, three floors of Class A offices, and 23 top-floor loft residences with outdoor patios. A skylit atrium brightens the interior while raised floors improved the view and allowed for under-floor installation of HVAC system and network cables creating office space that provide state of the art infrastructure making the building more competitive.
“A landmark in the progress of the modern movement in architecture in Michigan…”
The National Register of Historic Places
TRANSFORMATIVE ADAPTIVE REUSE
When the Knapp’s department store opened in 1937, shoppers enjoyed one of the era’s modern retail environments, with expansive floors and a design that encouraged interior circulation and focus as opposed to outward views. The opportunity to reinvent the property created a clean canvas in which to introduce high-end office and residential space. The transformation included a tenant-friendly installation of clear glass along the exterior and a new, skylit atrium that brings natural light into the interior core.
UPDATING AN ICONIC FACADE
The building’s Streamline Moderne façade was clad in “Maul Macotta” (enameled steel panels cast onto the face of concrete blocks that were hung from a steel substructure and glass block). These new technologies of the 1930s failed over time. Careful detailing replicates the original character of the façade with a rainscreen system and new glass block windows returning the building to its original glory with an energy efficient, state-of-the-art building skin. The creative updates modernized the crumbling exterior while meeting preservation requirements that ensured state and federal tax credits.
CELEBRATING ART MODERNE
One of Michigan’s most renowned examples of the Art Moderne architectural era, Knapp’s Centre’s sleek, elegant structure is among the most recognizable landmarks in Lansing. Through much of the 20th-century, the vibrant building welcomed shoppers into a bustling retail environment that still evokes cherished memories of downtown shopping and dining. The adapative use reestablished the building as a downtown destination.
Strict preservation guidelines structured much of the architectural response, limiting modern interventions in favor of retaining the historic integrity of the building. The ceramic, metal, and concrete panel system along the exterior—carefully replicated due to its deteriorating condition—is one of the largest examples of this classic Art Deco treatment in the U.S.