The title of our project is Houston Bottling, an arts and design incubator in the former Houston Coca-Cola Bottling Plant. Just like we selectively removed Coca-Cola from the name, throughout the project we made design moves with the same spirit; cutting out spaces while preserving their memory.
The original 1950’s Coca-Cola bottling plant is a building that was studied for years to follow for disrupting loading and handling systems; pioneering a new standard for industrial efficiency. Designed around a then-novel concept of a “Drive-Thru Building”, the first of its kind innovation allows up to 75 trucks to simultaneously be loaded and unloaded by conveyer belts with minimal intervention, saving around 44 thousand manual case handlings a day. The original street-facing façade was a local spectacle. With large sheets of glass overlooking the bottling machinery, passersby got a glimpse of the industrial feat of “cleaning and filling” 1200 bottles a minute! Over time, the original 1950s plan became muddied as more storage, warehouses, and production lines were added; growing into a messy accumulation of structures and sheds.
Our design challenge was to convert this historic factory into an arts and design incubator. Our philosophy for the incubator is that mostly what emerging artists and designers need is space. And for the most part, the space that exists here already is perfectly suited to reuse, with minimal intervention. Across the project, our adaptive reuse strategy is both simple and contradictory. We work with and against the building, keeping parts while completely wiping out others. In other moments, we faithfully recreate historic facades that have been lost.