Climb So Ill is an indoor rock climbing gym and urban destination, spearheaded by eclectic holds manufacturer So Ill. The architect was retained to design both the shell and core of the overall building renovation and the interiors of the climbing gym. The site is a former power plant for a now abandoned hospital complex near downtown St. Louis.
When the project began, the building, which had been abandoned for over two decades, had been emptied of most of the former boiler equipment, leaving the accessory walkways, demising walls, and miscellaneous equipment occupying two large spaces. Despite the volume of the existing spaces, there was not sufficient in height to house both 55 foot high walls and a desired rooftop restaurant. The final design cut a large opening into the slab separating the lower furnace level, from the boiler room, allowing for 60’ of un-interrupted height and cutting a section through the building that revealed the former workings of the power plant.
The primary climbing walls were placed in the center of the new multi-level space, with a vertical wall on one face and a bouldering wall on the other. Accessory walls for children and beginners were located on the perimeter. A new mezzanine was constructed above the main walls, shaped to cater to the ‘fall zones’ of the walls and allowing for competition viewing and creating an event space.
The materials for the new stairs, rails, and other structures were selected to complement the existing palette of paints and patina, which were preserved wherever possible.
The building is part of a National Historic District and the renovation work was reviewed by the National Park Service for adherence to rehabilitation standards. The adaptive re-use of this powerplant and the transition from industrial equipment to rock climbing walls, while maintaining much of the original aesthetics of the structure were critical in preserving this nearly obsolete historic structure.