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A corner gas station is probably the last place one would expect to find an example of notable architecture, but Princeton, N.J., is somewhat different in that regard. The city is home to just such a treasure, which captured the attention of Joshua Zinder, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, founder and principal of Princeton-based JZA+D.
“As a structure, this little gas station that was built in the 1930s always sort of interested me, because it had a beautiful Modernist form, and so it’s not something you would normally see in your common gas station,” he explained. “It sort of stood out for me.”
After discussing with the previous owner the possibility of turning the defunct service station into a restaurant, Zinder (who is no stranger to adaptive reuse projects) was eager to bring this architectural gem back to life for his client, Eden Hospitality Group, which also expressed interest in and ultimately purchased the building.
“When they ended up contracting with Nomad to come in and do this, our interest was really in preserving this Modernist form and enhancing it—taking those characteristics that are in the building and accentuating them,” Zinder said. “That was really the goal of the project. The lines of the building, the folded planes were really nice, and we wanted to accentuate those.”
The 1,000-square-foot space is now home to Nomad Pizza, which looks as though it might belong in L.A. or Miami with its sleek glass and cedar planes, new awnings, and a patio area that sparkles at night. JZA+D utilized large glass panels, rolling doors, and storefront systems that emulated the former garage and service bays to maintain some of the building’s original characteristics.
The project team also created a small addition off of the building to incorporate a walk-in freezer for the restaurant, as well as a service area for the covered patio that features a retractable shade.
“The goal [with the patio awning] was that it be open, lightweight, and [feature a] long span, so that it provides the functional needs, but doesn’t have draw from it aesthetically so dramatically that it would take away from the original structure,” Zinder said.
As with any adaptive reuse project, converting the former gas station into a functioning foodservice establishment wasn’t without its challenges. While the environmental remediation had already taken place prior to the sale, according to Zinder, the design team was somewhat surprised to find that the bases of the columns adjacent to the garage door openings had corroded away from the salt exposure from vehicles during winter months. Beyond that, the project went off without a hitch and stands as a testament to the value of adaptive reuse.
In the end, JZA+D took a smart, innovative approach for Nomad Pizza that could work for a number of closed gas stations in various regions around the country.
Because the existing service bays and garage door openings weren’t suitable for a hospitality environment, the design team chose to install specialized Electra Model Glass & Aluminum overhead doors, which come with energy efficiency and acoustic sound-buffering insulation as available options.
The aluminum storefront system chosen for Nomad Pizza emulates the former garage and service bays to maintain some of the building’s original characteristics—a key goal of the project.
The design team specified Durasol’s Genius model awning to cover the outdoor patio area, which seats about 80 customers, to allow the dining space to expand during warmer months.
Western Red Cedar
This natural element was selected because JZA+D wanted to bring touches of warmth to the simple, Modernist structure.