Winner of a 1986 Historic Preservation Award in Northampton, Massachusetts, the Gas Works project consisted primarily of a renovation of the “roundhouse” and its annex. The building now boasts a Main Street address, thanks to architect Tullio Inglese who added a bridge connecting the upper level of the Roundhouse to a small park on Main Street, making it more accessible to the public. The materials used to build the bridge were all recycled.
The Gas Works was purchased in the late 1900s by a developer, Robert Curran, who then hired Tullio Inglese as his architectural consultant. The Gas Works consists of two connected brick buildings, one round, referred to as the Roundhouse, and the other a rectangular annex. The Roundhouse, originally designed to look like a traditional building, was actually once an enclosure for the city’s enormous gas tank.
Renovations of the Gas Works included installation of a new elevator for handicap accessibility, construction of an intermediate floor in the annex and two lofts in the Roundhouse, as well as the sandblasting of interior brick and the painting of existing delicate steel trusses — both left exposed. Fortunately, Mr. Inglese convinced the owner to insulate the ceiling of the Roundhouse between the radiating rafters so that they could also be left exposed. Although it was tedious work, the visual aesthetic it created was well worth the effort. Also notable was the replacement of the wood plank floor of the cupola with a transparent polycarbonate material, allowing sunlight from the central oculus to filter into the space below.
The effect of sunlight pouring through the central oculus in an otherwise dark cavernous space is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome.
While working on the project, Tullio Inglese also proposed the design of an office/retail building facing the Main Street park. It would serve as a retaining wall, and make the depressed public parking more accessible to Main Street through the inclusion of stairs and an elevator. Mr. Inglese worked in a joint venture with architect Peter Kitchell (Inglese · Kitchell Architects) on this design. The proposed building has a north elevation nearly classical in style which faces the park, but a modern south elevation with cascading passive solar glass facing the parking lot. The project was too ambitious at the time, however, and zoning restrictions and political red tape prevented the proposal’s approval.