Yeehaw! A New Home for Smithbilt Hats, Just In Time for Stampede.

Smithbilt for blog post - with grass41 months.

30 pages of architectural drawings.

6 permits and permit revisions.

3 designated uses.

1 project.

Voila! You have the recipe for the completely unique, challenging, and equally rewarding mixed use project of ours that we are excited to get to share with you.

When Placeworks was approached to help evaluate and then design  the new location of Smithbilt Hats, we were absolutely delighted to collaborate with them to develop a concept for this interesting project.  Smithbilt Hats had its eye on the historic Shur-Gain (P&H) mill along the train tracks in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Inglewood and they wanted to know what it would take to turn this abandoned, dilapidated, and partially burnt/rebuilt mill from 1904 into a mixed use building to house manufacturing rooms, a spacious showroom, a boardroom, and a three-level private residential space for the owner.

Immediately, we were faced with the challenges posed by working on a heritage site/building which requires a balance between the original aesthetic, the realities of updated building codes, plus a new designated use for the building to meet new functionality needs for the owner.  We also knew that a project like this could and should become an inherent landmark of Inglewood, so we wanted the strong support of the Inglewood community before anything could be started. With other city planning regulations and differing agendas in play from different departments thrown into the mix, there would need to be a lot of design research and a deep collaboration done in order for this project to be a possibility. We believed every minute of it to be worth it.

After all of the necessary documentation, paperwork, sketching, initial drafting, revisions, countless meetings, a strong Architectural lead provided by Cordner Architects, and the proper permitting, the construction for Smithbilt was ready to begin! Some of the design challenges addressed for Smithbilt were fairly standard considerations that we need to take into account for most of the projects that we do these days. We incorporated LED-only luminaires and a lighting plan that could properly highlight a retail display area, achieve proper lighting levels in the manufacturing spaces, and could accommodate the aesthetics of the residential spaces. We also worked to ensure that form reflected function so that each space could look great but more importantly, could be well utilized to maximize productivity and sales for the company.

Other challenges were more unique; properly isolating and insulating the structure to reduce noise and vibration from the Canadian Pacific Railway cars moving and switching past merely meters from the back of the building, being able to provide enough storage space for the ample stock of cowboy hats required in preparation for the Calgary Stampede, or even maintaining barrier-free accessibility to the front entrance when there was not enough room to install a typical ramp (hello, vertical lift!), to name a few examples.

With great challenges come great rewards, and we definitely have a few favourite aspects of the project that we want to share with everyone.

  • The crazy angles! Driven by the triangular site, the mill’s layout was always made up of very different and unusual angles. Without completely tearing down the mill and starting from scratch, and instead of trying to squeeze in a conventional floor plan into that space, we worked with the original light and heavy timber structure and maintained the angular plan, resulting in a unique building that stands out from its surroundings.
  • The adaptive re-use as a transformation instead of a total “re-do.” Unfortunately, the fate of so many old structures is automatically to be torn down and replaced with a 100% new, contemporary structure, especially when the buildings are old and dilapidated, like the Shur-Gain mill. Before this project was underway, the old mill was quirky but a community eyesore. We worked with the original structure (a large portion is still existing, many of the intact structural elements) instead of leveling it, and now the new building is, in fact, a mix of old and new. We love that the history of the site and the building remain, and that the building is almost exactly the same in shape, just with a little more square footage added on. It’s rewarding to see that the haggard, abandoned structure could become an attractive and striking focal point in the community.
  • The metal siding that compliments the aesthetic of the old grain mill so well while maintaining a fresh and updated look for the new Smithbilt location, without being overly polished or literally too reflective.
  • The placement of all window locations which engage with and frame beautiful or striking city vistas as if they were photographic scenes hung on the walls, and the 14’-0” NanaWall door that opens up to a patio with a magnificent tree-top view into

After a lengthy project timeline and exceptional hard work from every dedicated person on all the teams who strived to make this plan to become a reality, we can finally say…. Welcome to the new Smithbilt location! Come on down to Inglewood, take a stroll by the building, and pop into the showroom while you are at it. Tell us your favourite part about this new building; is it one of the favourites listed above or do you have a new one to add? Get in touch via email or our social media to let us know!

To read the Avenue Magazine article on the new Smithbilt location as well as to see some interior shots, please click here. To browse the Smithbilt Hat collections, click here.

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