Technology and Website

Gensler and Civilian transform Detroit post office into technology center

American architecture studios Gensler and Civilian have restored the historic Book Depository building in Detroit and transformed it into the headquarters for technology company Newlab.

Gensler and civilian transformed the art deco building to be usable by tech companies, adding purpose-built prototyping labs, open-plan co-working spaces and outdoor green spaces.

Gensler and Civilian transformed a post office in the 1930s into a workspace and technology center

The 270,000-square-foot (25,083 square meters) building will be used as a center for startups, entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists working in mobility technology.

The Book Depository building was originally built in 1936, designed by American architect Albert Kahn as a post office and mail-sorting facility. It was later used as a place to store books by Detroit Public Schools, from which it draws its name.

The exterior of the Book Depository building was transformed by Gensler for the Newlab Detroit headquarters
The building will be used as Newlabs Detroit headquarters

The building now includes an exhibition space, an event space, a robotics and prototyping facility, and two open studio spaces with desks, lounge areas, classrooms and meeting rooms.

The interior has an industrial appearance with concrete floors and exposed services. Civilian co-founder Nicko Elliott said that the goal was to create “a resonant and layered environment”.

Lounge chairs, circular tables and plantings fill the central atrium space, which provides a collaborative workspace lit by the skylight above.

Interior atrium space with large skylight and open-plan co-working space
An atrium space lets natural light into co-working spaces

“The building has been repositioned to meet the demands of the city’s top innovators, including ample access to daylight, open internal connectivity and destinations for exchange, and an engaging ground floor as a connective intersection within the overall development, serving as a boulevard for the community, industry partners, and the neighborhood,” said Gensler.

“Embracing the rich history of the building, juxtaposing design elements with the industrial strength and structure associated with Albert Kahns work, Gensler reimagined the building with a focus on connection and collaboration,” added the developer Central Michigan.

New Lab has an existing headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, and hopes that transforming the Book Depository building into the company’s Detroit headquarters will attract jobs to the area.

“Building on its success in Brooklyn, Newlab is scaling its model of applied innovation to create the conditions for a sustainable high-tech startup ecosystem to take hold in the region,” said the company.

Technology labs at the Newlab Detroit headquarters by Gensler
The building includes and robotics and prototyping facility

“Projected to attract thousands of new jobs to Michigan Central, the campus will offer high-design innovation and collaborative workspace, dozens of acres of green and open space for the community,” Newlab continued.

Architecturestudio Ghafari assisted Gensler and Civilian with the interior design of the project and landscape design studio MYK created the landscape scheme.

Interior of the Newlab Detroit headquarters
The interior has an industrial appearance

The building is located on the Michigan Central campus, a district dedicated to mobility innovation that also includes Ford’s restoration and transformation of the Michigan Central Station.

Other large-scale projects set to be built in Detroit include a slanted glazed building designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox for the Detroit Center for Innovation campus and OMAs design to transform a derelict bakery into a mixed-use art and education facility.

The exterior photography is by Jason Keen. The interior photography is by Brian W Ferry.