Josi Wilgus



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In December we took the time to host local 4th and 5th grade extended study students participating in a unit on Historic Preservation. We started their visit to our office, the Klos building on Minnesota Avenue in downtown Billings, showing them our renovation of one of the oldest buildings in Billings. Although the Klos building was in a state of deterioration, sustainable strategies were used to transform it into a high-performance office. We then walked with them down the street to one of our current projects, the Old Billings Hardware Building, which is currently abandoned and deteriorating. They toured the open spaces of the first and second floors revealing the original brick walls, heavy timber structure, and pressed tin ceiling.

We have to say that we were very impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and unfiltered feedback as they formed their own thoughts on the potential design. Their ideas were refreshing as we considered the design of this building. The Old Billings Hardware building does not exist in a vacuum. It is in an urban context influenced by the movement of trains, street traffic, the surrounding buildings, the adjacent businesses, and the pedestrian movement that high-density sites allow.

These factors shape the Old Billings Hardware Buildings identity every bit as much as its own physical characteristics. Our goal in redeveloping this historic building is to honor the context of its site while equipping it to engage and serve downtown Billings once again. The Old Billings Hardware Building faithfully narrates the past; its renaissance should give it voice to speak to the future.

Already, the building has sparked the imagination of 4th and 5th-grade students. We believe it will continue to inspire people for many years to come. As we take this responsibility seriously, we can make some deliberate design considerations for a positive future for downtown Billings. Wouldn’t it be great if other building designs and policies were as thoughtfully examined?

We want to let these 4th and 5th graders and their teachers know how appreciative we were to receive their postcards filled with their own images and words.
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