High Low building at 3301 Washington Ave. in Grand Center, St. Louis in Feb. of 2021. credit craig currie

High Low Literary Arts Café in Grand Center by SPACE Architecture

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, MWM Contributing Writer April 1, 2021

SPACE Architecture has been named the commercial restaurant winner in the 2021 Design STL Architect & Designer Awards for its work in converting an industrial building at 3301 Washington Avenue in the Grand Center Arts District of St. Louis into the Literary Arts Center High Low Building for the Kranzberg Foundation.

The client’s “big idea” was to create an inclusive literary center for the community, according to Shelley Satke Niemeier, interior designer with SPACE Architecture.

“Most recently a storage facility and a building supply store at one time, the High Low Building was originally Oliver Cadillac, and after a few years, Mosby Printing — a publisher of medical textbooks — moved in,” she said.

“With a history rooted in books, this building seemed like the perfect spot for such a literary organization.”

The building now hosts a bookshelf-framed coffee shop, art gallery, event space, offices for small nonprofit organizations and workspaces for writers on one-year fellowships, including an office for the poet laureate of St. Louis.

According to the award, “This nonprofit client’s mission is to provide a forum for expression, everything from Shakespeare to comics to music. The design embraces the beauty of the 90-year-old building, including board-formed concrete ceilings, white walls, and new windows to illuminate it all. The furnishings in the café — the most public part of the building — were a priority. The goal was to set the tone with carefully budgeted selections. In addition to using books as décor, the designer researched tables to serve as the centerpiece of the space and found inspiration in renowned Black writer and activist James Baldwin, whose own home featured a Welcome Table, where he entertained guests and made them feel at home. SPACE’s fabrication produced Baldwin-inspired Welcome Tables, and the writer’s signature purple is used throughout the space.”

The building has 7,000 SF on each of two floors. SPACE provided architecture, design and furniture selection; the client self-contracted for other work. SPACE completed the project in late 2019 at under $1.5 million in construction costs from a budget of $1.3–$1.5 million.

Major challenges involved incorporating several uses under one roof and ensuring that everything would flow together smoothly.

“My favorite aspect is what we’ve done by embracing the existing space. It isn’t about Literature with a capital L but making the written and spoken word accessible; it transcends socioeconomic and educational levels. The mission is just so lovely, and the client gave us leeway to express it,” Satke Niemeier said.

Dramatic columns add to the “beautiful bones” of the building, and SPACE specified a new concrete pour for easy-to-maintain floors that provide a consistent look, according to Satke Niemeier.

In entering the same project for an American Institute of Architecture (AIA) award, SPACE noted that the client “emphasized that everyone should feel welcome, regardless of gender, ethnicity or education … Upstairs, spaces are elegantly partitioned by glass and bookshelves. … The Writers’ Studio spans the south wall, its walnut cubicles bathed in natural light. Nonprofit offices and a conference room line the east wall, and additional rentable corral-style desks are in a communal area adjacent to the kitchenette. Baldwin’s signature color was purple, and it was used throughout with gold.”

SPACE Architecture, located at 4168 Manchester in St. Louis, Mo., offers architecture, interior design, construction and custom fabrication services.

The other commercial real estate award recipient, Arcturis, was featured in last week’s MWM STL newsletter: (http://www.metrowiremedia.com/stlnews/arcturis-wins-design-award-for-fine-jewelry-showroom).

Blueprint Coffee is located in the High Low Literary Arts Café building at 3301 Washington Ave. in the Grand Center Arts District of St. Louis. This is also an event space owned by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. This unique building features around 2,600 square feet of space for art exhibits and has a small library as well.

Blueprint Coffee | Cafe Menu
3301 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103
(314) 549-9990 | Google Maps