Episode 12: Building communities through breweries: An interview with SUM Design


ex novo 2
Interiors at Ex Novo. Photo: Josh Partee

The first time I visited Ex Novo, a brewery in Portland, Oregon, I was struck by its design. It felt…designed. It wasn’t a cold space with some chairs and stuff thrown together. There was some thought put into it. From where we sat, we could see the brew tanks, bar action, interesting lighting, the space flowed so…design.

The next day I hopped online and did a search to see if it was the IPA talking or if there was a design firm behind it. Sure enough. That’s where I found the website for Sum Design Studio. I emailed them and started a conversation with principal Matthew Loosemore. His firm is not only behind the design of Ex Novo, but also Cascade Brewery and Commons Brewery (he’s also part owner).

Ex Novo interiors. Photo: Josh Partee

Over beers, naturally, we talked brewery design, how and why he got into designing breweries, how beer builds communities, and…Spokane, Washington’s downtown. I like to think this episode is a replicate of that conversation, a bit more sober, but hopefully still interesting.

Building that now houses Ex Novo —before retrofit.
Ex Novo after retrofit. Photo: Josh Partee

From there, Loosemore’s firm has designed everything from residential to commercial to mixed-use projects. And of course, breweries. Loosemore explains how they got started on that path and the niche he’s filling.

Are certain kinds of buildings more suited for a brewery? The first time Loosemore stepped into what is now Ex Novo, he knew right away.

If you’ve listened to Built Blocks for the last year, you’ll get my obsession with adaptive reuse. Older buildings with new lives. Nowhere is that more evident than with breweries and taprooms.

Beer, community, and creating great neighborhoods. The two go hand in hand. Why is that? How is beer a community builder?

Cascade Brewery. Photo: Josh Partee

Growing up in Spokane
Switching gears – to downtown Spokane, Washington. Home of the 74 Expo. Burned to the ground in the late 1800s. I had the chance to visit a couple years back and was struck with a solid downtown core and interesting architecture stock. Lots of 2-4 story brick, turn of the century stuff. As a Spokane native, I wanted Loosemore’s take on its potential.

For more on Sum design visit http://www.sumdesignstudio.com.


Music courtesy of Sounds like an Earful from Creative Commons Vol. 1 (Check them out – they have a slew of great, free music.)


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