With Champagne Metal & Linear Light:

Chapel Hill Design Firm and Louisville Distillery Receive Category’s Top Prize in 2022 Metal News Construction Awards

Rabbit Hole Distillery’s award-winning Tank Expansion Building at night. Designed by pod architecture + design of Chapel Hill, NC., the small structure serves as a lantern after dark for distillery staff and other pedestrians.
(Photos by Youn Choi)

Metal Construction News magazine (MCN), a national trade publication for the metal industry, has announced that the new Tank Expansion Building on Rabbit Hole Distillery’s campus in downtown Louisville, KY, designed by Chapel Hill, NC’s pod architecture + design (pod a+d), has won the 2022 Project Excellence Award for “Metal Walls – New Construction” in MCN’s annual Building & Roofing Awards program. Under the headline “A Jewel in an Alley,” the project is featured in the print and digital versions of Metal Construction News.

In 2018, pod a+d partners and principals Doug Pierson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, and his wife, experiential designer Youn Choi, completed Rabbit Hole’s original structure: a modern, predominately metal, $15 million, 55,000-square-foot bourbon distillery. Subsequently, Rabbit Hole Distillery became that year’s Grand Award Winner among all the MCN Building & Roofing Awards.

This relatively tiny, 1100-square-foot building became necessary when Rabbit Hole Distillery needed three additional 12,000-gallon fermentation tanks to expand the production of its award-winning bourbon. To produce the structure, Rabbit Hole founder Kaveh Zamanian turned again to the pod a+d husband-and-wife team, aware of the couple’s ability to create meaningful modern architecture at any size.

The Result: Multiple Purposes

Despite the building’s diminutive size and practical function — to house three massive fermentation tanks — Pierson and Choi believed it could perform several purposes if designed accordingly. For example, its location on the center-city campus would turn the building into a welcoming kiosk-like structure at Rabbit Hole’s Market Street entrance.

By day, the distillery’s “rabbit jumping down a hole” logo is a whimsical addition to such a hardworking little building.

It could also contribute to the City of Louisville’s plans to revitalize two historic back streets:  Nanny Goat Strut Alley, adjacent to the building, and Billy Goat Strut Alley, the sites for the city’s annual Bock Beer & Goat Race Festival.

To sustain Zamanian’s quest for architectural transparency throughout the distillery campus, the designers gave the new building huge windows so that passersby can watch the work going on inside.

The next step was to clad the exterior in a colored cement board and then wrap it in 1000 square feet of 1/4-inch-thick, “Champagne Metallic” metal sheets with one-inch holes. To keep the panels consistent, the duo devised “custom panel conditions.” Pierson explained the concept to MCN editor Marcy Marro:

“As we worked through the process, we were able to generalize it so we could have standard details all the way around. That allowed us to have factory edges for the panels, which was really important.” He noted that the long sides of the panels were never cut.

An eye-catching element of this utilitarian structure appears on the elevation facing Nanny Goat Strut Alley: an enormous version of Rabbit Hole’s whimsical logo, which first appeared above the distillery’s main entrance.

“Something Really Special…for the City of Louisville”

By day, the combination of tinted and perforated metal creates an eye-catching duo-toned effect that supports the building’s appearance as a gateway kiosk to the distillery campus. At night, Exterior Linear LED lights illuminate the exterior walls from behind so that the little building glows like a lantern to light the way for city pedestrians and Rabbit Hole staff.

“Wherever we have a perforated metal seam, we have a very thin concealed light that backlights the cavity, so the perforation holes create the glowing effect,” Pierson told MCN.

Choi added, “We wanted the building to brighten up the context and celebrate the history there.”

Pierson smiled. “Our goal was to create something really special and really interesting for the City of Louisville.”

In declaring the Tank Expansion Building as the best of its category, the MCN design jury seems to suggest “mission accomplished.”

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Published by Modern Trade Communications, Metal Construction News is the leading authority on the use of metal in architectural applications and building design. All of 2022’s award-winning projects are featured in MCN’s December digital and print editions.

Click here for information on pod architecture + design.

Click here for additional photos and specific information on the Tank Expansion Building.

Click here for photos and further details about the Rabbit Hole Distillery.

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