Sleek and Clean

It was one of those amorphous programs that are either the boon or bane of young architects’ practices, depending on your perspective. The developer of a high-end condo building in Wilmington, Delaware, wanted a dry cleaner’s storefront to look sleeker than average. It approached local firm arQitecture with no real direction, and with almost no budget.

“They weren’t really expecting anything great,” principal Todd Tully Danner says. “But I poured everything I had into it, and it all just came together.” Danner photographed a 1950s-era General Electric Company steam iron and had a local sign company create oversize vinyl prints to paste along one wall. He also purchased hundreds of discount chrome hangers on the Internet, which he welded into a sculptural centerpiece suspended from the ceiling (it also serves as a spot to hang garments waiting for pickup). Last fall Rainbow Cleaners won an honor award from the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects. That recognition has helped launch arQitecture from a solo practice to a seven-person firm, but that doesn’t mean it has abandoned low-budget hands-on projects. “We are trying to grow,” Danner says, “but we’re also trying to keep it real.”

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