Spring is officially here and while there is snow still on the ground the days are getting longer and the sun is getting stronger. Spring reflects new beginnings and so it is symbolic that on the first day of Spring 3S Artspace opened their doors and welcomed the community into their new home. The creation of this multipurpose building, with the name itself representing it’s three key spaces—performance space, gallery and restaurant—is the culmination of five years of tireless work, one that has been a true labor of love.
Chris Greiner, Executive Director of 3S Artspace, shares, “After 5+ years of anticipation, the energy here was celebratory from the moment we opened the doors. By all accounts the feedback on the space—the design, the programming, the food—was enthusiastically positive.”
The team at McHenry Architecture has been excited to be a part of the process from the start, back when the project was just the inkling of an idea. The creation of a vital community gathering space is at the heart of our mission, and the architecture, interior design, and fit-up of 3S Artspace has been developed around this principle.
From the beginning 3S Artspace has been a particularly unique and challenging project—with a change of venue and far more design iterations than we can count. With that said, there has never been doubt of the goal in creating this community gathering place. Last June the heavy machinery moved on site for the ground breaking and it’s been a whirl of activity leading right up to the opening.
The design accommodates 3S Artspace’s diverse programming, establishing a great deal of flexibility within the venue so they can grow into their needs as operations dictate. Each of the three spaces is intrinsically linked to one another, with the goal that visitors feel a sense of place, as well as a sense of connection to the other spaces and people around them. 3S Artspace is at once contemporary and warm, with simplicity in its aesthetics that embraces visitors of all ages and tastes—a place that feels truly accessible.
“3S stands for “three spaces.” explains Chris Greiner, “It’s clear that the spaces play well together. The design, which was such an incredibly thoughtful process, really shines at 3S. The flow between the spaces, the size and position of the central lobby, the transparencies between the spaces, are critical in shaping the visitor’s experience of 3S. Not only were people being guided intuitively by the architecture, but they were conscious of it and conspicuously pleased by it—I had many people talk to me about how the design felt both intentional and completely natural.”
What has emerged is an adapted reuse of a 60 year-old warehouse on the waterfront in Portsmouth’s Historic District in an up-and-coming downtown neighborhood. The building is a former food processing plant, built of concrete block, with no character or significant features to speak of. In many respects a blank slate. The team wanted to take advantage of this and enhance the building with industrial motifs that celebrate the historically industrial nature of the area, while enhancing the building with 21st century materials. “This was a refreshing opportunity to consider such a project in the City’s Historic District, offering an unencumbered approach to recladding a simple industrial building with a contemporary expression that reflects the nature of the building use”, said Project Architect Brandon Holben.
The exterior material pallet reinforces this ideal with the use of rusticated metal siding in alternating patterns and profiles, weathered wood boards, and translucent cladding at the entrances. The adaptive reuse of this neglected industrial building harkens to the history of the working waterfront buildings of the past, the crafted steel panels exposing riveted fasteners of the maritime shipbuilding industry, and the linear glass curtain walls of the war-era industrial buildings of the shipyard. We never would have guessed that the scrap metal piles, long a landmark along the waterfront and from which we drew inspiration, would be gone by the time 3S Artspace opens.
3S Artspace is the first truly contemporary building in Portsmouth and received unanimous approval through the Historic District Commission. We are proud to have been part of creating a thoughtful—and what we hope people find inspiring—design that had so many elements that needed to be considered. Our team hopes that this project will serve as a stepping-stone for more progressive design throughout Portsmouth, as the city explores more historical renovations. As the old adage says—from little acorns mighty oaks do grow. We are thrilled that 3S Artspace is home and rooted at last. We have no doubt they will be a congregating place for art, food and culture lovers alike – ourselves included.
Photography: David J. Murray, ClearEyePhoto.com