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Design Digest: Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design

Brent Warren Brent Warren Design Digest: Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design
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With their work on downtown condo-conversion projects like the Brunson Building and 225 North Fourth, Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design has developed a reputation for eye-catching modern additions to historic buildings. Their recent Parkside on Pearl project, though, is a fully modern new-build that would bring seven stories of apartments and offices to Italian Village. Barnes recently shared his thoughts with Columbus Underground on that project, the importance of being selective, and what Columbus needs to do to reach its potential as a destination city.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the history of your firm?

A: This is actually our 20th year, hard to believe. We started in 1993 when I returned to Columbus from Boston, (graduate school at Harvard), Chicago (4 years with a large firm – SOM), and 3 years in Milan, Italy (designing the Deutsche Bank branch bank system with Michele DeLucchi/Studio DeLucchi). We made the decision early on to be selective about the work we take on and focus on urban projects – infill and renovation – instead of just anything, anywhere.

Q: JBAD has been involved with wide a variety of projects, from hospitals to condos to student housing. Would you say there is an overall philosophy that applies to all of your work?

A: Yes. We always look for opportunities to innovate and always question the expectations people typically have of architecture. We are modernists, but with a small “m”, meaning we appreciate efficiency and minimalism in design, but more importantly, we design in the context of current society, culture and technology. We respect the past, but don’t try to repeat it. With our renovation work, we’ve developed a design philosophy of parabuilding, in which an addition or alteration to an existing, often historic, structure transforms the “host” structure in fundamental ways and creates a new identity for the building (see our Brunson Building, 225 N. Fourth Lofts, Hartman Building or OSU Cunz Hall projects).

Q: The Parkside on Pearl proposal in Italian Village has inspired a lot of discussion on our messageboard – anything you can share about your approach to that project?

A: We engaged CU for this project quite intentionally. We wanted to use it as a forum for the residents to share their opinions on the project and for our team to explain our intentions, and the discussions have been fantastic. It can get a little out of control at times, but it’s all valuable. This project will be a positive and important addition to the Short North. It will speak to the future of the neighborhood as a truly vibrant urban neighborhood. This is true modern design – something new to the Short North.

Q: In terms of architecture and the built environment, do you think Columbus has changed in the years you’ve been working here?

A: Yes, dramatically. We’ve seen many projects happen over the last 20 years, most in the last 10, that have vastly changed the physical and cultural landscape. A great deal of credit goes to the public and private leaders who have taken risks and bet on Columbus as a place that’s open to change and appreciates good design and strong urban neighborhoods.

Q: Do you see good things happening in the next 20 years? From a design and architecture perspective, do you think Columbus is on the right track?

A: Of course they will and we are on the right track. But in order to achieve our real potential, we need to let go of our impressions of Columbus as we’ve known it and accept the fact that we’re already living in a new paradigm. The upcoming generations are demanding different approaches and different solutions. They need, so we all need, robust transportation systems (including light rail) to connect neighborhoods and cities in smart, sustainable ways that help the economy and the environment and they need more available and affordable living options in urban neighborhoods. All the entrepreneurial, creative ventures that we’ve been seeing lately (food trucks, breweries, restaurants, retail, etc.) are leading us to a very interesting cultural place. We need to set the bar high, strive for good, authentic design and work hard to avoid mediocrity.

Q: Are there any other exciting new projects that you’re currently working on, or looking forward to in the near future?

A: Besides the Parkside on Pearl project I mentioned, we’re really excited about the new Whitehall library that will be completed next spring – like no library this area has seen. We have other apartment and mixed use projects in the Short North and Franklinton that will be game-changers as well. And a very cool modern house in a field in Powell that you’ll see soon.

Q: Anything else we should know about JBAD?

A: We have the best team we’ve ever had here – a lot of impressive talent. Lot’s of great things to coming up – keep an eye on our Facebook page.

More information about Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design can be found online at jbadusa.com.

Photos via jbadusa.com.

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