Published December 28, 2022
Making Its Mark
An adaptive reuse project in Atlanta is re-imagined into an urban retreat with panoramic views.
Contributed By: Feeney, Inc.
Originally built in the early 1950's as post-war affordable housing, Atlanta’s The Kimpton Sylvan Hotel has been artfully re-imagined into a boutique urban retreat with a distinctive mid-century modern design.
Located in the city’s elegant Buckhead area, the building was restored to its previous grandeur by the design team from SSOE | Stevens & Wilkinson. The award-winning hotel features 217 guest rooms, a restaurant and bar, courtyard dining, a private pool, a rooftop lounge, and more than 4,000 square feet of meetings and events space.
A Space with A View
On the rooftop, a previous deck area was transformed by converting an abandoned mechanical storage area into a colorful, quirky bar with roll-up doors for indoor/outdoor enjoyment. Vivid interior design and a vibrant hand-painted mural that spans the length of the balcony provide an eye-catching contrast to the hotel’s neutral exterior color scheme. Guests at the bar are invited to savor panoramic views of Buckhead and the surrounding skyline.
Style meets Performance
When it came to bringing the deck back to life and creating the rooftop lounge, choosing a railing that was durable and complementary to the design theme was important. The former railing had started to fail, rusting badly at the post connections due to the use of dissimilar metals. So, it was crucial that the railing selected would be resistant to corrosion over time. The historic nature of the project also required that the railings align with the mid-century modern aesthetic.
“This was a very unique, historical project, so we couldn’t install railings with traditional steel tube, picket, or glass infill,” said Laura Morton, senior architect from SSOE and lead on the project. “We were looking for a railing that resembled what had been installed in the past, but that was more distinctive and added a bit of character. That’s why we ultimately opted to go with Feeney’s DesignRail® in Modern White with stainless steel mesh infill.”
Safety was also a consideration. While Feeney offers several top rail styles, Morton selected a rounded top rail style to prevent bar patrons from setting their drinks on the railings.
“The railing requires minimal maintenance, which saves valuable time and resources,” added Morton. “The combination of the pre-finished, powder-coated aluminum and stainless steel infill means the railings should maintain their performance and looks for quite a while.”
More than Bricks on the Wall
Because of the antiquated nature of the building structure, the project team encountered some unique technical challenges.
SSOE wanted the railings to appear as if they were attached to the parapet wall lining the rooftop. However, the wall was constructed of unreinforced brick, making fascia mounting impossible from an engineering standpoint. Additionally, the limited clearance above the concrete left no room for pavers or base-mounted railings.
“We were looking for a fascia-mounted solution because the original deck was constructed of quarry tile on top of a concrete slab and also required insulation,” said Morton. “We were trying to open up access and make everything ADA-compliant, but we only had about five-and-a-half inches above the concrete level to work with.”
The SSOE design team collaborated with a structural engineer and with Feeney's commercial design and engineering team to develop a solution.
Collaboration for a Winning Result
The new rooftop floor included a pedestal system with a floating deck to ensure proper drainage. The Feeney team helped to develop the design and engineered a special 12” x 12” angled plate with welded studs that would attach to the concrete slab underneath and run parallel to the brick wall. This approach enabled Feeney’s fascia mount bracket to be bolted directly to the stud plates while creating the appearance that the railings are attached directly to the parapet.
Project installers worked with the Feeney system for the first time, making communication especially important. Feeney’s commercial team stayed in frequent contact with the project team, including the architect, structural engineer, general contractor, and sub-contractors, throughout the progression of the project to ensure that any changes that would impact Feeney’s design and engineering requirements were proactively addressed.
“Due to field conditions, many things can happen between the design phase and completion of a project,” said Scott Cathcart, Vice President of Commercial Sales for Feeney Inc. “Every project is a collaboration and it’s important to align with all stakeholders from the outset, especially in the initial phases of the project, to help ensure that everything goes as expected while meeting code compliance.”
Feeney considers supporting the project team to be an integral part of the relationship when undertaking commercial projects, many of which involve complex engineering challenges and often require innovative solutions.
“It’s a unique experience to work so closely with a manufacturer,” said Morton. “The fact that Feeney had a team that could do engineering that was outside the realm of our structural engineer really made a difference and was crucial to the project’s success. There was a lot of creative thinking involved and a hands-on approach, which we really appreciated.”
Another example of these types of challenges occurred when Morton realized that the pavers ordered were the wrong size, so the railing posts didn’t line up with them.
“The measurements were thrown off pretty quickly,” added Morton. “The railings had already been installed, so Feeney helped us figure out the spacing and come up with a solution.”
Additionally, Feeney created custom gates that harmonize with the railing design and can be locked to prevent public access to the rooftop mechanical systems and other secured areas.
The Past Meets The Present
Since the hotel’s opening in February 2021, St. Julep’s rooftop lounge – with its pops of bold color and inviting view – has consistently been one of the most popular areas of the hotel. On a typical evening, you will see locals and tourists alike in relaxed conversation – enjoying the ambiance, the drinks, and the dramatic cityscape.
Visitors to the hotel are not its only fans. The hotel recently earned The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation's 2022 Preservation Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation and was a finalist in the Adaptive Reuse/Repositioning category in the Urban Land Institute Atlanta’s 26th Annual Awards for Excellence.
“It was a wonderful experience to help bring a historic building back to life with a newfound glory,” said Morton. “The rooftop deck project, with all of its challenges, was especially rewarding. Feeney was a great partner not only when it came to planning but also when we needed troubleshooting in the field. And that makes all the difference.”