Taking out the Trash

Before and after

Moving stinks.

Or so you’d imagine of Evo Design, an industrial design firm based in Middlebury, Connecticut. This month the 12-person company changes shop—from a colonial-era farmhouse to a decommissioned water treatment (read: sewage) plant in nearby Watertown.

The site, owned by the Watertown Fire District, has played the role of flush guy since the 1920s, when eight acres of leach fields were laid. In the 1960s, the site saw the addition of a small-yet-tough, modernism-inspired brick building to house equipment for further refining the sludge, as well as three truck bays for carting it away. Once a place of bustling activity, the treatment plant has sat quiet since the 1990s when it was superseded by a bigger and better facility serving the small Connecticut city of Waterbury.

But one man’s dump is another man’s destiny. Evo was looking to expand into a larger office for its growing business. (The seven-year-old firm counts Samsonite and Conair among its most recent clients.) And when president Thomas McLinden, design director Aaron Szymanski, and Annemarie DeLuca, Evo’s director of business development, came across the former plant in May 2002, it took more than a little imagination to see the potential. DeLuca says, “When we saw it for the first time there were still test tubes and beakers and processing equipment, all the trucks were in the bays, and the fields were littered with huge tanks and beds and beds of gravel.”

Before Evo could welcome itself to its new home, a few updates had to be made. Besides ADA compliance, new HVAC systems had to be installed, and a steel mezzanine dropped into the garage (for additional studio space), however, “we didn’t take away any of the feeling that you’re in a municipal building,” DeLuca says. The original garage doors, placed just inside new glazing, are operable, for example, and the processing room has become Evo’s shop space. Other translations since December 2003, when renovation began: the laboratory is now McLinden’s office, while the former filing and meeting room remains a conference room. Thanks to a state grant, the land itself had been cleaned up a year and a half ago.

Still, is there a stench to be reckoned with? “Over the course of its lifetime it was regulated in its cleanliness and functions,” says DeLuca. “It was a scientific environment, incredibly clean and maintained.” So it’s only the packing and lugging of boxes that stinks.

For more stories with a water theme—including sanitation—check out the June issue of I.D.

COMMENT