Doug Pierson Tapped to Judge National Metal Construction Awards

Doug P. 2019The editors of Metal Construction News (MCN), the premier national news magazine for the metal construction industry, have tapped North Carolina architect Doug Pierson, AIA, to serve as one of only three judges for their 2019 Building and Roofing Awards.

Pierson and his partner Youn Choi are co-owners and principals of pod architecture + design. Their Chapel Hill-based firm received the highest honor – Grand Winner — in MCN’s 2018 awards program for their design of the 55,000-square-foot Rabbit Hole Distillery in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

“Because that honor meant so much to us, I was incredibly honored when [Senior Editor] Mark Robins asked me to serve as a judge this year,” said Pierson, who is also a faculty member at NC State University’s College of Design.

Projects have been submitted to the Building and Roofing Awards in five categories: Metal Buildings, Metal Roofs/New, Metal Roofs/Retrofit, Metal Walls/New, and Metal Walls/Retrofit.

Pierson and the other two judges will receive the entries digitally on October 4th. On October 14 they will confer with the MCN staff to determine the best three submissions in each category and the 2019 Grand Winner. The judges may also suggest projects worthy of a “Judges’ Award.”

This is the 33rd year that Metal Construction News has showcased innovation and excellence in the metal construction industry through its awards program.

MCN is a Modern Trade Communications, Inc., publication. For more information, go to

For more information on Doug Pierson and pod architecture + design, visit

Chapel Hill Firm Wins 2019 AIA Kentucky Design Award for Modern Bourbon Distillery in Downtown Louisville

RH Sidewalk view to Event Space
View from the city sidewalk up to the cantilevered event space with the manufacturing atrium behind it.

In a ceremony in Cincinnati, Ohio, last week, Doug Pierson, AIA, and Youn Choi, partners at pod architecture + design (pod a+d) in Chapel Hill, NC, received their second design award for Rabbit Hole Distillery, the metal, glass, and blackened wood structure they designed in downtown Louisville, KY, that the president of the Kentucky Distillers Association called “a modern monument to our historic industry.”

Earlier this year, pod a+d’s distillery design claimed the top “Grand Award” honor in Metal Construction Newsannual awards program.

The Kentucky chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) presented its awards during the AIA Ohio Valley Region’s “Celebrating Design Awards Luncheon” on September 19 at the Hilton Netherlands Plaza in Cincinnati.

The awards jury praised the new distillery as “an exuberant extension of industrial language with playful materiality. There is a legible and contemporary expression of both corporate identity and the process of making at various scales. In this way, the process of production becomes part of the architecture.”

Doug and Youn
Founders, partners, and principal designers Doug Pierson and Youn Choi.

​According to Pierson and Choi, the design embraced the strategy “form follows process” as they allowed the building to take shape in direct response to the bourbon production process it houses.

The design also expresses owner Kaveh Zamanian’s vision for “transparency and craft,” another aspect the awards jury appreciated: “The architectural language in section builds up to create programmatic density in some moments and transparency at the atrium.”

The building’s “strong relationship to the street” impressed the jurors as well.

For more information on Rabbit Hole Distillery, visit

For more information on pod a+d, visit


pod a+d moves from Carrboro to downtown Chapel Hill

north columbia street chapel hill - Google Search 2019-08-24 17-47-21

On August 21, pod architecture + design (pod a+d), the award-winning design firm previously located in Carrboro, moved its multi-disciplinary studio from the historic Depot on that town’s Main Street to offices at 201-A North Columbia Street in Chapel Hill.

The move reflects the partners’ desire to establish their studio in the more nationally known Chapel Hill since many of their projects are located outside North Carolina. Examples include Rabbit Hole Distillery in downtown Louisville, Kentucky; Sixty Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California; and a new distillery in Brooklyn, New York, that they’ll announce in more detail soon.

Doug Pierson, AIA, and his wife, experiential designer Youn Choi, are the founders, partners, and principal designers at pod a+d. They relocated their non-traditional firm from Los Angeles to North Carolina a few years ago and have been operating out of the converted 1882 Depot in Carrboro since then.

They’re quick to say they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the historic Depot, but something has been nagging at them,..

pod a+d is licensed in five states because the firm’s work frequently takes the team from North Carolina to California and other project sites in between. And more often than not, whenever they’ve told out-of-state clients that their firm is headquartered in Carrboro, the look on their faces made them add quickly, “…which is right next door to Chapel Hill.” The nods and smiles afterward spoke volumes. Like Duke University in Durham, UNC-Chapel Hill has given the town a national reputation.

“Ultimately, it made sense to us to align our firm with that distinction,” Choi said. So on August 21, they loaded a moving van at the Depot, drove a few blocks northeast, and unloaded the van at 201A North Columbia Street.

“We’re looking forward to settling into our new studio and enjoying all the opportunities in Chapel Hill’s downtown district.”

The studio move has taken place just a couple of months before Pierson and Choi and their two children move into the new modern house they designed that’s currently under construction (below) in Carrboro.


For more information on pod architecture + design, visit and follow the firm on Facebook.

About pod architecture + design

pod architecture + design (pod a+d) is a full-service, award-winning, non-traditional architecture firm located in the Triangle region of North Carolina and licensed in five states. As a firm, we believe in the integration of architecture and all aspects of design to connect buildings, environment, and identity. That’s why pod a+d is a hybrid firm, offering all architectural services, environmental design, experiential graphics, and wayfinding design. Exterior and interior architecture; furnishings and finishes; financial feasibility and scheduling; engineering and construction; and environmental graphics  –  considered simultaneously, these disciplines inform our integrated approach to architecture. For more information:






pod a+d is gaining a strong foothold in the craft distillery design niche

Whiskey Business: The Top 4 Craft Whiskeys You Need on Your Bar Shelf 2019-08-24 16-28-57

Doug Pierson’s eyebrows shot up when he saw the article online. He motioned for designer Youn Choi, his partner in life and their award-winning firm pod architecture + design, to take a look. She stepped away from her own computer to peer over her husband’s shoulder.

“Whiskey Business: The Top Four Craft Whiskeys You Need on Your Bar Shelf,” Youn read aloud. When she didn’t react right away, Doug urged her to “keep reading.” And as she did, some very familiar names began to appear:

Few Spirits

Widow Jane Distillery

Rabbit Hole…

Youn and Doug looked at each other and smiled.  “Three out of four,” Doug said brightly. “Not too bad.”

What the couple shared that day was the realization that their small, multi-disciplinary design firm in Chapel Hill is now associated with all but one of the manufacturers of the “…top performing whiskey products from craft distilleries” across the nation, according to, an e-commerce ordering platform for alcoholic beverages.

As it happened, Provi posted that article just a few days after Youn and Doug learned that the 55,000-square-foot Rabbit Hole Distillery they completed in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, in 2018 would soon receive its second design award. That very urban metal, glass, and black wood structure that the president of the Kentucky Distillers Association called “a modern monument to our historic industry” will receive an award from the Kentucky chapter of the American Institute of Architects in September. Earlier this year, pod a+d’s distillery design claimed the “Grand Award” top honor in Metal Construction News’ 2018 awards program. As such, it was emblazoned across the cover of the magazine under the headline “Dynamic Distillery.”

bourbon distillery design
The original Widow Jane Distillery in Red Hook.

Meanwhile in Red Hook: More recently, pod a+d received the commission to design a modern facility within a ca. 1940 waterfront warehouse for the darling of the craft Bourbon industry, Widow Jane Distillery in Brooklyn, New York’s Red Hook village.

“Named GQ’s #1 Bourbon, Widow Jane is giving Kentucky bourbon a run for its money,” wrote Provi’s Ryan Philemon about the distillery’s prize beverage, which is made with mineral water created from the limestone used to build the Statue of Liberty and the White House.

Widow Jane is one jewel in owner Samson & Surrey’s crown of premium craft distilleries. Another is FEW Spirits of Evanston, Illinois. Doug and Youn haven’t worked with the folks at FEW – yet – but they got to know them when the couple took them on a special architectural tour of Rabbit Hole. “They loved it,” Doug recalled.

Growing Expertise

D and Y

Doug and Youn and the entire pod a+d team of designers didn’t set out toexcel in craft distillery design. But when they found it, they fell in love with it – the specific requirements and challenges, the fascinating process of making bourbon, and the opportunities for architectural innovation in plan and proportion, form and scale, positive and negative spaces, and movement through those spaces as they coordinate staff needs with touring groups.

Working with a visionary client in Louisville whose primary aesthetic requirements for Rabbit Hole were “craft” and “transparency,” Youn and Pierson were free to bring the principles of modernist design to bear on an industry steeped in tradition and historicism.

pod architecture + design
A 48-foot-tall copper still rises through Rabbit Hole’s manufacturing atrium.

What emerged was their concept of “form follows process,” allowing the building to take shape in direct response to the Bourbon production process it would house. The building would be an homage not just to Bourbon, but to the craft of Bourbon-making. The result is a unique and responsive building that shares its design and purpose equally with the 48-foot-tall copper still and gleaming steel equipment.

“The process itself became our inspiration,” Youn noted.

Chilled Magazine praised Rabbit Hole as “the most innovative distillery on Louisville’s urban Bourbon trail.” Louisville Business First said it “breaks the mold of the classic vintage Kentucky setting. Rabbit’s Hole’s upscale steel and glass façade is a hip urban facility…It has a futuristic appeal for the next generation of Bourbon aficionados.”

And at the grand opening last summer, pod a+d’s client, owner Kaveh Zamanian, called his new building “a modernist cathedral built around the process of making Bourbon. Every aspect of the building is designed to follow and pay respect to the art and science of distilling.”

Another Kentucky concept

Rendering 2

The pod a+d team also designed the initial concept (above) for a modern, environmentally sustainable distillery in Middletown, KY. The architectural idea suggested an elegant, two-building composition linked by physical representations of various elements of the distilling process. In form and footprint, the scheme engaged the landscape and gently stepped down the property’s existing terrain, allowing the process of Bourbon-making to flow naturally, via gravity, from grain delivery all the way to barreling.

Whether or not the praise heaped on Rabbit Hole Distillery, the firm’s commission for the new Widow Jane distillery and Few Spirits’ admiration for this firm’s work ever combine to portend pod a+d cornering the market, so to speak, on craft distillery design, the thought provides a pleasant daydream — and perhaps a lofty goal — for Doug Pierson and Youn Choi.

Oh — if you’re curious, the fourth craft whiskey on’s list is the 10-year-old Rye produced by WhistlePig in Vermont.

This month in CHAPEL HILL MAGAZINE’S “The Downtowner”…

pod a+d’s principals Youn Choi and Doug Pierson, AIA, were photographed with their kids, Oscar and Sora, for the cover of the July edition of The Downtowner, Chapel Hill Magazine‘s “Guide to Rediscovering Downtown.”



ARCHITECT project gallery: “Sixty Beverly Hills”

Sixty Beverly Hills Hotel | Architect Magazine | pod architecture + design, Beverly Hills, CA, Hospitality, Addition:Expansion,… 2019-06-20 17-33-12.png

“California cool meets manicured elegance at Sixty Beverly Hill…This modern Beverly Hills hotel blends upscale comfort with custom made furniture and unexpected design elements.” – Hospitality

The project involved renovating the exterior and interior of an eight-story hotel, including new roof-top bar and pool levels. It was completed in phases. Built on the bones of a 1960s Best Western motel, our goal is for the 92,000-square-foot Sixty Beverly Hills Hotel and Bond Street restaurant to capture the sophisticated cool of late ‘70s and ‘80s design as well as the casual elegance of California modernism.  READ MORE



ARCHINECT: “Rabbit Hole Distillery”

Rabbit Hole Distillery by pod a+d
“Overlook,” the public events space, is cantilevered above a repurposed tire warehouse.

Form Follows Process: The process of making world-class bourbon informed every aspect of the design of the new, urban, 55,000-square-foot Rabbit Hole Distillery in downtown Louisville, KY.

That, and owner Kaveh Zamanian’s desire to make his dramatic distillery transparent to the city and a destination for locals and tourists via public tours, tastings, and cocktail hours in “Overlook,” the third-floor event space that provides panoramic views of Louisville’s trendy NuLu neighborhood.

The Louisville Courier-Journal called Rabbit Hole “a modern monument to the bourbon industry.” Chilled Magazine dubbed it “an innovative distillery on Louisville’s urban bourbon trail.” READ MORE