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The Whole Foods that Frank built

August 22, 2014

hurleyak

Gehry WFFrank (Gehry) and pioneering developer Jim (Rouse), that is. In the early 1970s, Frank Gehry completed one of his first buildings, the headquarters of the Rouse Company (now the Howard Hughes Corporation) in Columbia, Md.

Original Gehry Rouse building

The original building, courtesy Howard Hughes Corporation

The building just underwent a renovation by Baltimore’s Cho Benn Holback + Associates, and reopened earlier this week–as a Whole Foods.

I drove to Columbia to check it out. 

Cho Benn removed the original third floor to make a double-height space for Whole Foods, but otherwise deferred to Gehry’s design; his white stucco and wood trellises are intact.

StuccoThe store had only been open two days when I visited, and the customers looked lost, but not disappointed. It’s a lovely, light-filled store, even on a rainy day.

WF interiorWF dining areaCho Benn lavished some extra care on the specialty food stations (like this vegetarian diner with a sculptural ceiling element).

WF vegetarian dinerI especially liked how the architects reinterpreted the small glass atria at the front. (Is that the right term for them? They’re such a hallmark of 1970s and 1980s corporate architecture, yet I’m not sure what they’re called.) 

WF front 2The Whole Foods overlooks a manmade lake with a promenade that Rouse envisioned as Columbia’s main civic space. There was hardly anyone around on a gray Friday morning. More on Columbia and its future in my next post.

WF lake

One Comment

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  1. August 25, 2014

    I am happy to have come across you and your blog. The Columbia Archives is the primary resource on Columbia. We have been involved and interested in the The Rouse Building re-use. If you are looking for any background or more info on Columbia, its architecture, The Rouse Building, we are the place to go. We are located just across the parking lot from Whole Foods. If you come back to visit please stop by. In the meantime visit our website http://www.ColumbiaArchives.org

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