Former Reynolds Building becomes new home for College of Design


Emily Girard

UK held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday morning for the new headquarters of the College of Design. Formerly located in Pence Hall, the college will now be located in the Gray Design Building, according to an email sent to the campus Monday.

The Gray Building was formerly the Reynolds Building, a former tobacco warehouse that is no longer in use. Over 75 donors contributed to the development, which UK spokesperson Jay Blanton explained took several years to fully fund and was severely challenged by COVID.

“The process has been very positive, and the momentum has continued to grow,” Blanton said. “Donors and alumni are excited to see this project come to fruition after being talked about for so many years.”

The building was named after Gray Inc., a major donor to the construction project. Gray Inc. is composed of 12 companies focused on “engineering, design, construction, automation, equipment manufacturing and real estate,” the email stated. The company also contains members of the Gray family, which has connections to both Lexington and design-build programs. 

Gray Inc. donated $5.25 million, part of which will be used to create a design-build program at UK. Currently, the College of Design has five programs, all of which will be housed in the new building: architecture, interiors, historic preservation, product design and urban & environmental design. Landscape architecture and biomedical engineering studios will also be added.

Historic preservation is one of the key motivators for repurposing the old, unused Reynolds Building for the College of Design’s new home. 

“Preservation is part of our DNA. From our master’s program to the osmosis into all areas of design, historic preservation serves as a mainstay of our pedagogy,” the UK College of Design website explains. “We embrace the idea that the former Reynolds Building is one of the most significant adaptive reuse projects on campus and in the Commonwealth — a working model that translates to a formidable teaching moment for students.”

Blanton also explained that the building’s proximity to the College of Fine Arts, Cornerstone and the College of Education makes it a key part of UK’s “Innovation District.” The larger building will also allow for more enrollment into the college.

The unique location on the edge of campus with parking creates opportunities for community engagement, workshops [and] outreach — sharing the disciplines in the college with not only UK’s campus but also Lexington and beyond,” Blanton said.

International architecture company Studio Gang designed the new layout of the building. Jeanne Gang, a founder and partner in Studio Gang and the lead architect of the Gray Building, explained in the email that the new building will embody the creativity of UK’s design students and create a “polycultural” education atmosphere, where multiple disciplines can easily collaborate.

“By starting with what’s there, our design pays tribute to the history of the university’s campus while minimizing the environmental impact of the project to help prepare for its future,” Gang said.

The building is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.