» A creative-thinking developer and industrious design team have proven that the mundane can be beautiful with FLEXsystems, a self-storage facility in a blighted neighborhood of Topeka, Kansas. Recognized by the A|L Design Awards jury for the graceful and thorough way in which its unpretentious solutions came together, the structure exemplifies what can be achieved when architecture and light are considered integral pieces of a whole, no matter how simple the building type may seem.

The recommendation of a study conducted by the developer for the reclamation of an old strip mall, the project included not only an architect, but a lighting designer and a landscape consultant-unusual in the slap-it-up world of storage facilities. Equally unusual, was the developer's agenda that the building be a 'symbol of renewal, as well as a catalyst for redevelopment and revitalization,' notes the submission form.

The resulting building is simultaneously pragmatic and elegant. Most of the materials were catalog-ordered. On the north side, ribbed-metal overhead doors in four custom colors punctuate a band of corrugated Galvalume, which is crowned with an 11-foot-tall horizontal expanse of polycarbonate glazing. Tongue-and-groove cedar planks line the underside of the roof overhang and the entrance. These materials speak of simplicity, which also defines the lighting approach.

Derek Porter Studio employed three off-the-shelf solutions to illuminate the entire building. Integrated adeptly into the architecture, the fixtures provide functionality and personality for the structure at night. In particular, the luminaire arrangement at the north-side loading dock speaks to the project's incorporation of the practical with the aesthetic: A wet-location industrial fixture, with a cold-weather ballast and vandal-resistant polycarbonate lens, placed in a cove between the façade and the rolling door, simultaneously illuminates the loading dock and, when the door is up, the interior of each unit, while also washing the colorful doors with light for visual punch. Above, the glazing glows nocturnally with illumination from the same core source-4-foot T8 fluorescent striplights-mounted inside. (The glazing also allows ample daylight to enter the space.) The third solution appears in the office, an arrangement of the same T8 lamps customized to create a decorative pendant.

By day, FLEXsystems brings a viable business in an aesthetically refreshing form to a depressed area; by night, a well-conceived lighting strategy gives the building a similarly hopeful identity. A|L

It's wonderful because there is nothing extra. ••• Considerate use of daylighting. ••• A beautifully simplistic design solution that is visually successful. ••• It's exactly what you need for a storage facility. You're getting the glow in there, so you don't need to turn on the lights during the day. ••• It's beautifully diffused. ••• It doesn't have all these bells and whistles. Just by concealing the indirect fixtures and such, it marries well.

Project Location Topeka, Kansas
Architect El Dorado Architects, Kansas City, MO
Lighting Designer Derek Porter Studio, Kansas City, MO
Photographer Mike Sinclair, Kansas City, MO
Project Size 24,000 square feet
Watts per Square Foot not provided
Cost approx. $60 per square foot (overall construction)
Manufacturers ACE Ballast, H.E. Williams