From the Archives: Tres Birds’ Burton Showroom

Celebrating our Decade of Design

Tres Birds' Burton Showroom

Back in 2008, Modern in Denver’s second issue featured an article about Tres Birds Workshop’s design of the Burton showroom for John Damiano. The design all started with the discovery of a barrel-vaulted ceiling in the original mid-century warehouse location. Scroll through to read more. 

Cover of Modern in Denver's second issue
A work space at the Burton showroom in Denver.
The Tres Birds Workshop office.
The conference table was created from reclaimed bowling lanes.
Much of the wood from the building’s original interior was salvaged to create the central display areas.
The mezzanine work area provides ample views of the Front Range.

When John Damiano contacted Tres Birds Workshop about creating his new Burton showroom what he had was an out-of-date building and one very tight deadline.  The structure was a 1950’s warehouse located in one of Denver’s transition neighborhoods, Overland Park. The timeline was two-fold. Two months to complete the design and permitting process, three months to take the building from gutted shell to ready-for-business. Not many people would have been up for the challenge, but Tres Birds is unique among local architectural firms. 

Tres Birds Workshop, located in Boulder, was founded in 2000 by architect Mike Moore. Joined in 2002 by co-partner, Janny Chaiyavet, their team fluctuates between five to eight employees depending on the project. For the Damiano showroom not only was the whole firm working ‘round the clock a number of sub-contractors joined in along the way. To complete a project of this scale, in this time frame, certain forces must align. Damiano explains,“You could tell that they understood our culture…I felt like they did their homework with us. We could never have come up with this design, but we knew what we wanted and they were the best option to interpret this vision.”

The key to Tres Birds’ success is that in addition to creating great designs they also have the ability to build and fabricate, giving them a personal connection to their projects that not many other firms can claim. With the Damiano showroom, these skills were not only handy, they were necessary. The building was originally a combination office/warehouse that had housed both a window distributor and an asphalt company. Upon first inspection, the structure provided little inspiration; low popcorn ceilings, fake veneer wood walls, tight rooms and lack of daylight were the norm. When Tres Birds discovered the warehouse’s wooden barrel-vaulted ceiling ,however, they knew they had found a solid place to start.

After interviewing Damiano’s staff, Tres Birds worked on designing a specific user experience, for both the employees and their clients; one that would connect the products they loved with the environment they loved – the mountains. To start, the architects decided to raise the front one-third of the building to match the barrel-vault structure found in the warehouse. This not only created room for a mezzanine level office space, it allowed Tres Birds to install a number of west-facing windows looking towards the Front Range. To make the building more efficient, Tres Birds added high R-value insulation and used Cor-ten roofing, a metal which never needs replacing.  An internal steel support beam was extended beyond the building, creating an archway entrance, part of an impressive new front for the showroom.

It’s the little details inside the building, however, the subtle hints you may not even notice, that truly make the project shine. Part of the Tres Birds ethos is to incorporate reclaimed material into their designs whenever possible. During the demolition phase, the architects were able to save a large portion of the original wood, which was then used to create the showroom “core” on the first level. Here one will find an open kitchen/cafe – a place to welcome clients, give them a cup of coffee and let them relax before what could be a long day of sales meetings. The maple tables were made by Tres Birds from reclaimed bowling alley lanes, which the firm used to create the staff’s work tables as well. Part of the ceiling is covered with a white rip-stop fabric, which helps diffuse the light and reference the all-important element – snow. Skirting the side of the core are smaller rooms housing items such as Burton bags and accessories, all part of the plan to create an intimate client sales experience. 

The building then opens up into an expansive showroom, which was designed by Tres Birds with modularity in mind.  Custom-designed steel product racks, made by the architects themselves, are wheeled out for presentations and sales while large white curtains of fabric can be pulled across to create a more private setting. Steel frame windows with sand blasted lower halves punctuate the space; allowing light in, but keeping the visuals toward the sky and trees rather than the industrial neighbors that surround them. Solar tubes on the south wall bring in more natural light, and what the sun can’t provide is taken care of by the full spectrum lighting that was installed. The north side of the building, which was selected as the soft goods showroom for its gentle diffused light, has a bowling alley runway to showcase next season’s must-have pieces.

As Moore explains, the overarching theme for the design was singularity. “With all of our work we try not to bury things, but bring them down to their lowest common denominator and simplify. Because we’ve educated ourselves in design/build we can very efficiently understand the project for our clients – time-wise, financially and seeing the potential of how wonderful a space can become.”  This thoughtful design process was so impressive, in fact, that when Burton executives came to visit the Damiano showroom they instantly commissioned Tres Birds to create more. The firm has gone on to design Burton stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, Irvine, Oakland, Osaka and Vail, with several new showrooms on the way. Tres Birds’ portfolio, however, is not limited to just commercial venues.  The firm has done a wide array of residential and large-scale sculptural work, ranging from temporary to permanent and new construction to renovation. It is the large-scale renovation projects, however, that Tres Birds finds especially satisfying. “Environmentally it makes sense, to take a space that needs help and make it really special,” says Moore.  It is this simple philosophy – based on innovation, honest design and ecological principles – that sets Tres Birds Workshop apart and makes them truly special as well.

Jaime Kopke

Jesse Howard