Artist Lofts on Lake Street

The seeds of the project are the spaces between buildings

The Artist Lofts on Lake Street builds on the arts and culture history of North Omaha, center of the city’s African-American culture for more than 100 years. Research suggests the way to build on the neighborhood’s cultural heritage and encourage economic development is through the stimulation of a creative economy. The Lofts is a multi-use development, integrating live-work arts spaces with shared studios, new commercial storefronts on the ground floor, and a large public plaza. The goal is to improve livability for the broader community by targeting the cultural sector in concert with the arts corridor of the North Omaha revitalization plan. Located between the historic Webster Exchange Building (formerly the Great Plains Black History Museum) and the Showcase Lounge (once an important jazz venue), and adjacent to The Union for Contemporary Art (The Union), the project forms a cultural campus with these other institutions. The Lofts includes 2 new buildings, a central public plaza, and the renovated Showcase.

A design collaboration of SO-IL and Actual Architecture Co., the first phase of the project is funded by an NEA Our Town Grant and led by neighborhood visionaries, the Omaha Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) and The Union. The design process was informed by series of community meetings and artist-led focus groups.

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An arts campus united by a network of in-between community spaces.
Lake Street elevation

Courtyard view, community vision: “accessible gallery space”, “gathering and social spaces for artists”, “open creative spaces”, comments from open public meetings and artists' focus groups informed the design.

A vibrant mix of private studios, shared studios, apartments, and retail / restaurant spaces.

Shared studios & workshops.

“Being able to talk to other creative people about their process and just being inspired by the work helps fuel my work.” - participating artist

The shared studios are ground-floor work areas to accommodate artwork, segregated ventilation, special equipment, heavier production requiring a sturdy slab-on-grade, and ground floor vehicle access.

Private studios & quiet work places.

“Proper lighting, small to medium size room, easy access to water supply, room to be outside for larger or messy projects.” - participating artist.

The studios are primarily designed as artist’s work spaces but they include small bathrooms and kitchenettes so tenants could live in these minimal units if desired.

The new buildings are constructed of cross-laminated timber (CLT) structural walls, CLT floor slabs with concrete topping, and glulam columns and beams supporting the floors. A glulam and aluminum-grate exoskeleton carries some lateral loads and expands the building without extending the opaque floor plates, thus providing outdoor work space for each unit. The building envelope is clad with anodized aluminum siding and large, matching sliding glass doors and windows. Responding to the twin goals laid out by the majority of the artists (privacy and participation in an arts community) the decks negotiate that with a semi-transparent mesh screen. This screen breaks down the distinction between the private interior and the public outdoor space, creating an interstitial realm controlled by the artists. The screen provides residents with a way to interact with the public spaces that surround them. The success of the plaza space will have people looking over it from above, as well as linear LED lighting hanging between the buildings.

“I need a space that is where I live so I can work at any hour.” - participating artist

model by SO-IL

"You don't have to be from the neighborhood, but you have to be for the neighborhood." - participating artist

Project Awards

2018 AIA Central States Merit Award for Unbuilt Architecture

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