De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop

Louisville, KY


Rickhouse Speakeasy

The project was designed as an installation for PARK(ing) Day, the annual worldwide event that transforms city parking spots into temporary public parks for one day. The installation is required to fit within the footprint of its specific site – a typical 8’x20’ unmetered parking spot in downtown Louisville.

The goals for the project were: 1) to explore the potential of an unorthodox public space with a very limited footprint, 2) to activate an urban sidewalk with an interactive, spatial experience, 3) to create a meaningful public space that relates specifically to the Kentucky region, and 4) to explore the design potential of a single material using conventional construction methods

Drawing inspiration from Kentucky’s bourbon heritage and the bourbon-aging warehouse traditionally called a ‘rickhouse’, the design is a simple 8’ deep x 20’ long x 10’ tall rectangular grid volume comprised of green-painted 2x4 lumber. The structure conceals an interior open void through which visitors can enter and walk through. The cut ends of the 2x4 lumber defining this interior passage are painted a poppy-orange color to visually emphasize the geometry of the hidden void space.

During the PARK(ing) Day event, the structure functioned as a modern-day ‘speakeasy’, alluding to the secretive Prohibition-era establishments which illegally served bootleg liquor. Visitors venturing into the structure could pick up a shot glass stored within the hidden passage and enjoy a complimentary shot of bourbon served within.

Although the installation was intended to last for only a single day, the local community continued to use the structure over a two-year period for a wide range of uses, including: a play space, a shady lunch spot, a semi-private space to ‘make-out’, a background for fashion photo shoots, a neighborhood marker and a designated meeting place. On several occasions, neighborhood children have used the grid structure to store and exchange toys. The installations has since been dismantled, but it's temporary presence has exposed the importance & impact of community dialogue through a 'non-building' whose use had been appropriated by the neighborhood.

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Status: Built
Location: Louisville, KY, US
Firm Role: Architect