Early Frank Gehry office to reopen as a Whole Foods supermarket

Early Frank Gehry office to reopen as a Whole Foods supermarket

News: an office building designed by Frank Gehry in the 1970s will this week reopen as a Whole Foods Market, following an extensive renovation that involved removing one of the floors.

The former Rouse Company headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, was one of the first buildings completed by Los Angeles-based architect Frank Gehry, 83. It will now be rebranded as the Columbia Regional Building – housing a Whole Foods store and a community health and fitness centre.

Early Frank Gehry office to reopen as a Whole Foods supermarket
The building before renovation – image courtesy of The Howard Hughes Corp

Originally commissioned by real estate mogul James Rouse as his company headquarters, the four-storey lakefront building is characterised by its flat roof, stepped terraces, white stuccoed facade and wooden trellises.

In 2010, 14 years after Rouse's death, the building was taken over by The Howard Hughes Corp – a Dallas developer in charge of the entire town's redevelopment – who charged Baltimore firm Cho Benn Holback + Associates with the redesign.

The architects removed the floor above the main level to create a double-height space for the Whole Foods store, which is due to open on Wednesday. The front trellis has also been extended to integrate the building with the surrounding car park.

"The development efforts by The Howard Hughes Corporation will transform Downtown Columbia, and landing Whole Foods as an anchor is akin to leading off the game with a home run," said local county executive Ken Ulman. "Having Whole Foods at the Rouse Building also achieves our objective of preserving and highlighting this Frank Gehry original."

Early Frank Gehry office to reopen as a Whole Foods supermarket
After renovation – image courtesy of The Architects' Newspaper

A mind-body wellness centre will be integrated into the building later this year, while The Howard Hughes Corp will have its offices on the upper levels.

Gehry, who once described the building as an "elegant warehouse", is said to be satisfied that his first large commission will be reused at all and happy that the building will now be more open than Rouse had allowed, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.

The architect visited the building in 2010, after being invited by The Howard Hughes Corp to see what future role he might play in the town's redevelopment.