This summer, I worked at Stokes Architecture & Design—an architecture and interior design firm known for its playful yet sensitive approach in rehabilitating vacant and underutilized buildings around Philadelphia into lively and engaging spaces for gathering. As a design intern, I was primarily responsible for developing new work and demolition drawings as well as verifying dimensions and conditions in the field for the rehabilitation of a former Weisbrod & Hess brewery building. With the former brewhouse on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, the design aimed to preserve the façade, reconstruct the deteriorated steel truss structure, and infill the interior to suit its new use as a restaurant with minimal impact on the original building. There were two distinct project goals for the duration of my summer internship: the first was to convey the overall design intent for its change of use to obtain a zoning permit from the city, and the second—with the building largely in poor condition—was to develop the design for the new roof, new truss structure, new exterior windows, and masonry treatment to obtain a building permit to begin work on the exterior.
Preservation courses that elevated my internship experience include Documentation I, Documentation II, and Building Pathology. Documentation I equipped me with a framework for navigating the abundance of resources available in Philadelphia to carry out preliminary archival research as well as find historic photographs that are foundational in reading and connecting the site to its physical and historical context. Documentation II was especially helpful in surveying the existing building with the course’s holistic and technical application of fieldwork methods. Building Pathology provided valuable insight for understanding the effects of material and structural changes over time as well as the integration of new technologies, systems, and building components as they relate to an existing building.
After completing my first year of preservation coursework and my summer internship, I feel that I am continuously expanding my education as an architectural designer and my understanding of the built environment within both theoretical and technical contexts. Throughout the summer, I’ve become more familiar with the Philadelphia Historical Commission’s requirements for new work on historic buildings. With Stokes’s office located in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, I was able to spend more time in Center City observing other projects’ successes and shortcomings in reconciling historic and contemporary conditions.
I’m grateful to Rich Stokes, an alumnus of Penn’s architecture program, for the opportunity to learn from his firm’s approach to preservation design within Philadelphia and the opportunity to continue developing the project as I work part-time during my final year in the preservation program.