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Engineers’ Club of St. Louis Rebrands, Plans $3M Renovation of Mid-Century Building

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The Engineering Center of St. Louis

Sometimes the history and future of St. Louis collide in an interesting way. The city is becoming known as a growing center for a wide range of technology related start-up companies and jobs. It also has an incredible built environment of Mid-Century Modern architecture, and a legacy of social and professional clubs.

In the city’s Central West End, where more than a billion dollars is being invested by Washington University in St. Louis and BJC Healthcare, and the Cortex innovation district is adding companies and jobs at a fast pace, the Engineers’ Club of St. Louis can feel a bit dated. An overdue $3M re-branding and renovation seeks to change that.

The Engineering Center of St. Louis{The Engineer’s Club today – image by Toby Weiss}

The new name, The Engineering Center of St. Louis, smartly drops the “club”. The organization’s mission, to represent more than 1,000 members, and 14,000 affiliate members, and serve as a central meeting place for the area’s professional engineering community, isn’t set to change drastically, but change is coming. The Engineer’s Club will continue to exist under the umbrella of the Engineering Center.

The Engineering Center of St. Louis

The Engineering Center of St. Louis

The Engineering Center of St. Louis

The Engineering Center of St. Louis

A rejuvenated facility will be one component to help attract a younger membership and remain engaged with the evolving engineering and technology landscape. My own anecdotal experience from attending a single event at the club, is that, just like other social or professional affinity clubs, the organization would do well to attract a younger, more diverse demographic. The building itself won’t solve this dilemma, but as-is, it certainly doesn’t help.

The Engineering Center of St. Louis{The Engineers’ Club interior today}

The project, designed by Remiger Design, is set to break ground in spring 2016. Additional phases will include a redesigned fellowship hall, a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning facility and updates to the exterior of the building. The existing building, at 4359 Lindell, was designed by Russell, Mullgardt, Schwarz & Van Hoefen and completed in 1959. The building was recently included in a Mid-Century Modern architecture survey by the City of St. Louis, and is just one of many good examples of of that era along Lindell Boulevard.

As social events such as Venture Cafe have exploded, and hack-a-thons of one sort or another seem to happen every weekend, an organization such as the Engineers’ Club is forced to evolve. The renovation aims to create a more flexible, modern space in which to collaborate with 30 affiliated organizations, partner with local schools and businesses and encourage greater student development in STEM.

The Engineers’ Club of St. Louis was organized in December 1868 and is the third oldest engineering society in the nation. According to the organization’s website, in addition to engineers, its membership includes architects, executives and business administrators, as well individuals in the technical, scientific, educational, marketing and legal fields.

The Engineering Center of St. Louis

The Engineering Center of St. Louis{image by Toby Weiss}

An earlier, now outdated, renovation vision:

The Engineering Center of St. Louis - old vision

Engineers' Club of St. Louis - old project ideas

Engineers' Club of St. Louis - old project ideas

Engineers' Club of St. Louis - old project ideas

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  • Bill Wischmeyer

    I’m heartened and grateful to see the Club invest in the neighborhood and the building. This is a fine building and an important example of MCM architecture designed by an obviously talented architect. As such, any work to be done to extend its useful life should be carried out with care and respect for its quality and pedigree.
    From what I see in the renderings, it appears that the exterior is to be painted and/or re-clad. Magic Chef building revisited? The proposed interiors are flashy and trendy, soon to be outdated as tastes move on. They always do. Better to embrace the spirit of the original design by giving the interiors a functional makeover hewing to the original palette and detailing in so far as practical. In the hands of a talented designer this approach can yield an equally fresh spirit to the spaces while respecting the judgment and forethought of those that built the original building.

    • Chicagoan

      Yeah, I’m not particularly fond of the renderings, specifically the interiors. It looks like this renovation will become outdated soon after completion. I really like the new logo and name, though I feel like it should have “St. Louis” in it somewhere. But, the interior design looks like it’ll need another makeover in five years.

      I think the best way to go is an understated nod to Mid-Century Modern design, both on the outside and inside.

  • Imran

    (sigh) A part of me is disappointed because this investment will galvanize the under-utilization of this property for decades to come. I am conflicted because while I see the value of preserving/updating the mid-century aesthetic, the car-centric priorities of the time came with a lot of damage to urban form.

    • Chicagoan

      I feel similarly, regarding your commentary on Mid-Century Modern architecture. Parking was a central part of it’s aesthetic and there’s a lot of Mid-Century Modern architecture that I think is complete junk.

      However, some of it is also lovely and I think this is a charming, yet simple, design.

      It’s important for a city to have a variety of architectural styles and this is a great example of the Mid-Century Modern aesthetic.

      Mid-Century Modern indeed was a car-centric style and this has a parking lot as a result, but honestly, it’s not like there’s a streetcar on Lindell. At least some of the parking is behind the building, helping the building feel somewhat urban.

  • TIm E

    Man, making me feel old again with everything having to be about attracting the young. My experience with the club and building is limited. But I suspect a lot of the members like me have 20 plus or more years in the construction and engineering field. Heck, I I have been a member of the ASCE, American Society of Civil Engineers for 23-24 years and I feel like I want to be in contracting for another good 20 years..
    .
    Sometimes things just feel tired and you want some new digs, new feel, new look. Like Don noted, a pleasant surprise and kudo’s to the members for keeping a professional club presence gong in the CWE.

  • rgbose

    Great news.

    Anyone know how their property is tax-exempt? Between the building and parking lot they have 1.5 acres.

    • Don

      I’m assuming they are organized as a 501c(4) which is tax exempt.

      • Stltimm

        Not sure about the Club itself but the Foundation funding the renovations is a NFP

  • Andy

    *4359 Lindell Blvd

    Doesn’t sound the like the CWE will ever run our of steam at this rate.

  • Don

    Well this is a very pleasant surprise. They have a very attractive piece of real estate and it’s wonderful to see the investment.

  • Presbyterian

    I had seen an earlier set of renderings, and these newer ones are a big improvement, particularly on the interior. Glad to see them investing in the project!