For the Atlanta-Based Firm BLDGS, No Building Is Beyond Rescuing

Atlanta’s west side is strewn with recycling centers, warehouses, shipping companies, abandoned rail lines, and other markers of light industry. It’s a grimy setting but one that architects Brian Bell and David Yocum felt ineluctably drawn to; there, inside a former auto-parts shop in 2006, they founded BLDGS. A comically inadequate title card above the buzzer announces the firm’s presence.

“It’s a bit of a Batcave,” Yocum says, noting the inscrutable exterior. (The next-door maker hub keeps the outpost from being too exact a set piece for The Outsiders.) Embracing anonymity is a running theme in BLDGS’s work, and the studio often finds itself working from the inside out, be it an art gallery tucked into a 19th-century carriage house or a café slotted into an old museum-ticket stand.

This insistence on interiority may have been inspired by Bell and Yocum’s earliest impressions of Atlanta, gathered in the late 1990s after they arrived from the Harvard Graduate School of Design to work for the firm of their professor Mack Scogin, who employed them for a decade. In the run-up to the 1996 Olympic Games, says Bell, the city had been given a “Potemkin village treatment,” in which quick fixes and flashy facades concealed sites of decay and rot, but also potential. “We drove around and saw a lot of real opportunity, like this building,” Yocum adds, noting the studio’s oxidizing metal canopy.

Courtesy Bruce Damonte –