Zig-zag Moderne Here To Stay

You’ve probably driven by the empty Firestone building at the corner of 16th and L streets and wondered what in the world is going to happen there. You’ll have your answer shortly as three new restaurants, a retail store and a lounge-restaurant open in the coming months. That’s no small transformation for a building about to celebrate its 80th anniversary, but don’t worry: Its zig-zag moderne style (that’s how the state’s historic structures inventory record classifies it) won’t be changing. “We’ve largely tried to retain the initial spirit of the building, and it will be highly recognizable as it always was,” says Sacramento architect Ron Vrilakas.

And all of that gorgeous terra-cotta tile will look better than ever. It was in pretty rough shape before a recent restoration. “There was extensive damage to the building, but not so much that we needed to have new [tile] manufactured,” says Ron Happe of California Restoration and Resurfacing. “Our scope of work was to repair—and match as closely as possible—the existing terra cotta. The problem was that because of traffic, you get areas of the building that aren’t the same color from stone to stone. Matching the color is the challenge.” After the restoration, Buehler & Buehler Structural Engineers performed a multi-step anchoring process to make sure the tiles stay put. “It’s a challenge because they are hollow and so brittle and fragile,” says Drew Chalstrom, associate principal. Vrilakas notes that reconditioning the terra cotta was very sensitive work. “Structurally, Buehler & Buehler had a tough job of making it look like we didn’t touch anything, when in fact, we touched everything,” he says. “The engineers had to get very creative in a delicate way. They did a great job.”

Art Complex Launched on Simple Idea

No, Barry Smith is not moving his gallery. “Smith Gallery has been at 11th and K for … ever,” he says. “And I’m not planning to leave there unless they move the state Capitol.” What’s prompting people to ask Smith if he’s moving, though, is the Sacramento Art Complex he opened in May at 2110 K St. The Smith Gallery Midtown is key to the complex, but there’s much more to it. What was once a boring two-story, 10,000-square-foot office building now houses artists’ studios and mini-galleries, even a framing center. “With 20-plus artists, it’s a nest of creativity,” Smith says. “Many of the artists do work here.” Steve Memering, known for his abstracts and cityscapes, is one of them. He says he spends weekday mornings painting right there in the front window. On Second Saturdays, the place is teeming with artists. “Usually if you even get to see an artist on Second Saturday, they’re stuck somewhere in the back with a glass of wine,” Smith says. “This way, they’re here to sell and talk about their work. It’s just fun.”

Photo by Gabriel Teague