May 26, 2016

Curran Architecture Finds a New Home in a Former Army Barracks

  • By: David Weible
Curran Architecture Board Room

photo by: Dawn Olsen

Curran architecture moved into Barracks 671 in February 2016.

When architect Shawn Curran was searching for a new home for his Indianapolis firm, the modern properties he was being shown just didn’t seem to have what he was looking for. Then he walked into Barracks 671 on the grounds of the former Fort Benjamin Harrison.

Almost immediately, he and his employees knew the 1908 enlisted men’s barracks was the right fit. “It just felt like an architecture firm,” they said.

The fort itself opened in 1903, and was most active during the two world wars as a military training facility. During World War II, it also held German and Italian prisoners of war. When the fort closed in 1996, a commission was tasked with selling off appropriate real estate. Barracks 671 made the grade.

By the time Curran came across the location in the summer of 2015, a developer had replaced the roof and largely completed the necessary remediation work. Two tenants were already occupying the 10,000-square-foot building’s ground floor, but the second story was largely a blank canvas; just wooden floors, columns, and joists.

Curran Architecture Meeting Room

photo by: Dawn Olsen

Brick exterior walls and wooden support beams were left exposed while double-hung windows retained their historic design.

Curran Architecture sealed the deal for the space in the fall, designed their offices over the winter, and moved in in February 2016.

Though the build-out wasn’t designed with a focus on the building’s history—the no-nonsense military construction left little ornamentation and few defining characteristics—the group did embrace what was left of the original fabric, and took pains not to cover the remaining historic character.

Brick exterior walls and wooden support beams were left exposed while double-hung windows retained their historic design. Work stations are oriented around the floor’s perimeter with meeting rooms and public spaces in the core.

Though it deteriorated over time and was removed long before their arrival, the Curran team is also working with the building owner to recreate the structure’s original second-story porch, which ran the length of the facade facing the fort’s parade grounds.

In the attic space above their office, employees found an old steel plate used for target practice. Since they moved in, Curran has collected roughly 20 shell casings that have slipped from between the floorboards overhead. The plan is to incorporate them into some sort of decorative element honoring the building’s history.

Outside, Curran employees have been taking advantage of the green space their new location affords them. As part of its closure, much of the fort was converted into a state park and golf course. Employees also often walk to lunch and client meetings in the surrounding neighborhoods or other converted buildings on the former fort grounds.

All-in-all, Curran and his employees couldn’t be more thrilled their new office is so old.

Curran Architecture Hallway

photo by: Dawn Olsen

Curran Architecture's offices seamlessly blend old with new.

David Weible is a former content specialist at the National Trust, previously with Preservation and Outside magazines. His interest in historic preservation is inspired by the ‘20s-era architecture, streetcar neighborhoods, and bars of his hometown of Cleveland.

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