Subversive Sustainability: Subtle Aspects That Form a Powerful Narrative


The Green Building
Rabbit Hole Distilling










We designed the first LEED Platinum building in the downtown Louisville, Kentucky, area known as  The Green Building. It opened in 2008. Little did we know that 10 years later, we would be commissioned to design the new Rabbit Hole Distilling campus right next door. We completed the main distilling building earlier this year.

Subsequent to The Green Building, the Nulu neighborhood received an EPA grant for LEED Neighborhoods, one of only a few across the country. Now the two projects form bookends that set up Nulu’s exemplary core.

Though the new Rabbit Hole campus is not LEED Certified, it is in keeping with pod architecture + design‘s mantra. Which means there are a lot of interesting sustainable bits quietly woven into the project’s design fabric.  I call it “subversive sustainability” —  subtle aspects of the project that form a powerful narrative in the overall design concept.

Consider the  following “subtle aspects” at Rabbit Hole and visit our website at to see a full gallery of images:

  1. Adaptive reuse: We repurposed an 11,000-square-foot former tire warehouse on the property. One of the “greenest” things you can do in construction is not to build but, instead, to re-use and improve a structure that is already there. We fought to keep the 60-year-old building and work around it because we thought it was the right thing to do.  And we re-used the steel framing removed from the warehouse as our trellis at the front entry.  As a result, we were able to sustain the memory of the old neighborhood, tell a story through the architecture about adaptive re-use, and upgrade the experience of occupying a unique space both in the neighborhood and in the building.
  2. Locally sourced our metal panels from Metal Sales in Louisville: Developed through R&D, we set up a new product with Rabbit Hole as the flagship project.
  3. Local materials, suppliers, and contractors to reduce the building’s carbon footprint.
  4. Dual-purpose chillers and hot water tanks for both bourbon production and building use — which may be a first in distilleries
  5. Production design efficiency: Most of the processing occurs is gravity flow, which meant fewer pumps were needed and less energy is consumed.  The idea: to apply “old school” methods to “new school” technology.
  6. Outdoor air mixing and in production spaces.
  7. Big Ass Fans® in warehouses and back-of-house spaces instead of high-energy mechanical systems.
  8. Tiered comfort zone designs to ensure minimal energy use in a usually maximal energy use industry.
  9. Processing re-use of fermented grain (stillage) as a bio-source of heat for cooker equipment (which also adds complexity and depth to the bourbon taste).
  10. Exterior wood louvers that eliminate heat gain before it gets trapped in the building.
  11. Thermal mass concrete floors.
  12. Quality of life considerations: abundant views of downtown, the Nulu neighborhood, and the bridges over the Ohio River
  13. We also like to think that this distillery is a really cool design that integrates all systems into one coherent sense of place.

On The Boards: pod architecture + design partners reveal plans for their modern house on a hillside

modern custom-designed house Chapel Hill
Scale model of Carrboro House created by pod architecture + design

Eager to plant their roots more deeply into their new hometown, experiential graphics designer Youn Choi and award-winning architect Doug Pierson, AIA, partners in life and founding partners of pod architecture + design (pod a+d) in Carrboro, have designed a modern house for their family of four that they’re about to build on a site that poses a host of challenges.

“No one has purchased the lot for a long time because it’s so hard to build on,” said Pierson, referring to the 1.2-acre swatch he and Choi purchased within a 12-acre preserved wooded area. “It has severe limitations: a year-round 100-foot creek setback, an oddly shaped buildable area, a steep hillside, dense forest coverage, and it’s adjacent to a floodplain.”

Yet Pierson and Choi didn’t see those issues as limiting. They saw them as inspirational.

modern, custom-designed house in Carrboro
Rendering by pod a+d

From their design studio in the historic train depot in downtown Carrboro, Pierson explained how the land informed the custom design of the future 2500-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath modern house that he and Choi will share with their two young children.

“We’ve chosen to honor the unique site by letting it suggest the form of the house,” he said. “So we’ve partially embedded it into the wooded hillside and opened it up to the natural meadow and creek at the lower elevations. We’ve used the strict construction limitations to establish a design that follows the usable land contours, reflects the climb in elevation by ‘hopping’ up to the higher elevation, then anchors itself back to the top. The form evolved wholly from the site limitations and our desire to maintain the meadow undisturbed.” He paused and smiled. “On a different site, it would be a different house. So we’re very happy that we found this particular site.”

Pierson, whose family hails from North Carolina, and Choi, a native of South Korea, are excited about reusing the Southern yellow pine trees that have to be felled to make room for the house. They’re having all of them milled locally then returned to the site to be repurposed as cabinetry and architectural woodwork.

According to the design, this modern, sustainable house will be a composition of sleek, rectilinear forms, at once soaring and grounded. Huge expanses of glass will frame views of the meadow, forest, and creek and allow natural light to fill the interior. The foundation and retaining walls will be polished concrete block. A terrace on the upper level will have glass overlook guardrails.

They haven’t decided on the exterior material yet. If the past is precedent, it will be corrugated metal. But Choi is still searching for a new cladding material that can be continuously wrapped around the house’s form and respond to the site and the climate.

Inside, their modern house will feature exposed structural steel, polished concrete floors over radiant heating, quartz countertops, and the repurposed southern yellow pine for custom cabinetry.

Committed to Local:

Pierson pointed out that he and Choi have hired green home builder Kevin Murphy of Newphire Building in Chapel Hill, and an all-local roster of consultants and suppliers including: structural engineer Rob Munach of Excel Engineering in Carrboro; Fitch Lumber & Hardware in Carrboro; Stonehenge Masonry and Adams/Oldcastle Products, both in Youngsville; Metal Sales Manufacturing Corp. in Mocksville; and radiant flooring expert Mike Torville of Carrboro.

The Choi-Pierson house should be completed by August of 2019.

For more information on pod a+d, go to and visit the blog, pod news & media. The firm is also on Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Kentucky bourbon and brisket: pod architecture + design hosts Thirst4Architecture August 16

pod architecture + design
The pod a+d team: L-R Wendy Broome, Youn Choi, Barbara Ngaboyamahina, Dougald Fountain, and Doug Pierson Not pictured: interns from Doug’s third-year design studio at the NCSU College of Design, Dept. of Architecture — Casey Calhoun and Nailah Watts-Harper.

For the first time since moving back to North Carolina from the West Coast, Youn Choi and Doug Pierson, founders and principals of pod architecture + design (pod a+d) in Carrboro, will host Thirst4Architecture (T4A) to celebrate modern architecture and the people in the Triangle who love it on Thursday, August 16, from 6-8 p.m.

Free and open to the public, the event is one of the monthly happy hour networking social occasions established by North Carolina Modernist Houses and will be held in the firm’s studio in the historic train depot in the heart of downtown Carrboro.

T4A is an opportunity for anyone interested in and associated with modern architecture to mix, mingle, and build relationships with other modern design enthusiasts in a relaxed, casual environment. Pierson and Choi will provide the location, food, and beverages while participants get an up-close look at pod a+d’s work through models and drawings.

A Special Treat for T4A Guests

Award-winning architect Doug Pierson, AIA, recently attended the grand opening of one of his firm’s most ambitious projects to date: Rabbit Hole Distillery, a state-of-the-art, 55,000-square-foot, $15 million bourbon distillery and campus in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

For their T4A event, Pierson and Choi are having Rabbit Hole’s award-winning bourbon shipped to Carrboro. The bar staff provided by Drew Moore, owner of CrossTies Barbeque (201-East Main Street) and several other local establishments, will serve special bourbon-based cocktails as well as “straight” and “on the rocks” options, and soft drinks for pod a+d’s August 16 event.

Moore is also providing CrossTie’s popular “Brisket Sliders” for the evening’s savory selection.

 “As local as possible”

Pierson and Choi, partners in life as well as work, are relative newcomers to the Triangle architecture and design community, having recently returned from living and working on the West Coast. Their new modern house in Carrboro, which they designed together for their family of four, is under construction and will plant their roots here even deeper.

“We’re so happy to be back,” Pierson said, “that we’re doing everything we can to be as ‘local’ as possible. That’s why we chose space in the old depot for our offices. We’re active in the community, we shop at the Farmers Market and Weaver Street, and we’re working with one of the best high-performance, or ‘green,’ homebuilders for our new house: Kevin Murphy of Newphire Building in Chapel Hill. We’re also hiring all-local subcontractors and vendors, including the lumber supplier.” He smiled. “And we’re always free to talk when people walk in and tell us that our space doesn’t look like a barbeque joint.” He explained that people often mistake the firm’s front door for the entrance to Cross Ties.

pod architecture + design is located at 201-A East Main Street, Carrboro, NC (919.246.6466) For more information, visit pod a + d is also available on Facebook.

California Modern, Sophisticated Cool, and Unexpected Design Elements

pod architecture + design completes Sixty Beverly Hills renovations, additions


“California cool meets manicured elegance at Sixty Beverly Hills…

This modern Beverly Hills hotel blends upscale comfort with custom-made furniture

 and unexpected design elements.” – Hospitality


After 10 years of a multi-phased project (2008-2018), Doug Pierson, AIA, and the design team at pod architecture + design (pod a+d) have finished renovating the exterior and interior of Sixty Beverly Hills, an eight-story hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The project included the addition of two new levels – a roof-top bar and lounge on one, a swimming pool and cabanas on the other – along with the conversion of a parking deck into a business center and intriguing guest rooms.

3.60BH Composite 2.png


Sixty Beverly Hills Hotel was built on the bones of a 1959 Best Western motel.  As a mid-century modern commercial building, the Best Western enjoyed historic status with the city. “So we removed some unfortunate ’80s construction to reveal the mid-century structure,” Pierson said. “Then we made sure the new design, which we started in 2006, would honor and enhance the original building.”


Pierson’s goal was for the 92,000-square-foot 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,” he said.


To do that, the pod a+d team had the building gutted to its concrete and plaster shell. They then opened up the third-floor parking level to create a visual void/dividing line that reveals the hierarchical order of spaces. Most guest rooms inhabit the upper five-story volume, or “floating box,” above the third-floor void. The restaurant and public spaces anchor the building to the street below.

On the second floor, the pod a+d team converted a parking deck to a business center and guest rooms with unexpected design intrigue: For the guest rooms, they left the concrete columns and beams from the parking deck exposed as a rough material that they juxtaposed with elegant walnut infill. At the windows that they added, they designed integrated walnut seats, desks, or daybeds depending on the room type.

Above Sixty Beverly Hills

6.60BH_Rooftop Lounge

Perched on top of the “floating” guest room box are two new outdoor floors. One is “Above Sixty Beverly Hills,” an open-air, roof-top bar and lounge where a mature live olive tree rises from the center of the bar back and trellised spaces provide stunning views of Beverly Hills. One design critic has called the space “an impossibly cool cocktail bar that perfectly captures the hotel’s unique blend of New York hip and Los Angeles cool.


A wide steel staircase with a slender profile leads guests from the bar and lounge to another upper level. There, they discover a pool and cabana level, paved in ipe and stone, for swimming and indoor/outdoor conferences. The recessed swimming pool features Swarovski Crystal banding tiles. Six poolside cabanas are cantilevered off the south side of the floor.

To counter prevailing winds on both new levels, Pierson and team installed glass windscreens: eight-foot-tall walls of glass at the edges. The glass is braced back to planters with no mullions. As a result, guests enjoy unencumbered, panoramic views of Beverly Hills and beyond.

Pierson began the project as a founding partner with (fer) studio in Inglewood, CA. He completed it as a co-founder and partner in pod architecture + design, which he and partner Youn Choi relocated from Los Angeles to Carrboro, North Carolina.

Click here for more information on pod architecture + design.

Click here for more information on Sixty Beverly Hills Hotel.


“With dark woods, deep leathers, smooth marble and lots of mirrors, the Sixty Beverly Hills hotel is a sophisticated and tasteful throwback to mid-Seventies luxury and style.”   –


“A cinematic rooftop bar and poolside lounge, Above Sixty Beverly Hills provides balmy zephyrs and panoramic views of L.A.’s distinguished skyline and fabled canyons. Located on the rooftop of the SIXTY Beverly Hills, Above Sixty was named LA’s Best Rooftop al fresco bar and restaurant located within walking distance from Rodeo Drive and other world-class shopping.” – LA Weekly

INSIDER LOUISVILLE: “Behold the Rabbit Hole Distillery, where modern meets tradition”

Rabbit Hole Distillery is located at 727 E. Jefferson St. | Photo by Sara Havens

By Sara Havens

Rabbit Hole Distillery, the first of three bourbon experiences to open this year in Louisville, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and first-look tour Tuesday morning for staff, industry representatives, city officials, business people and media.

In a speech before the ribbon cutting, the founder Kaveh Zamanian said that he and his team had been waiting for this day for a long time.

“We’re opening Kentucky’s newest whiskey distillery out of nothing on a place that was a rundown warehouse and a vacant lot,” he began. “From the beginning, I set out to build a brand that raises the bar — a modern, distinct, authentic and innovative brand that is built in the place of Providence. A place that is rooted tradition but is also forward-thinking”…

…The modern structure, created by the architect Douglas V. Pierson, definitely stands out in the NuLu landscape and towers as high as the nearby hotels. But inside, an open-space concept — with wide staircases zigzagging at various levels to view the distillery’s many components from all angles — feels comfortable and intimate… READ MORE


DISTILLERY TRAIL: “Rabbit Hole Distilling Founder and Freudian Cuts the Ribbon at Distillery Open”

Photos from

Rabbit Hole Distilling broke ground on their new distillery in October 2016. At the time Founder Kaveh Zamanian told us, “It takes courage to back a startup, particularly one that is headed by a recovering psychiatrist. (He gave up an 18-year career as a psychiatrist to start Rabbit Hole.) This week, the psychiatrist’s dream that started in earnest back in 2012 came true as he, along with his family and several hundred of his closest friends, were on hand to cut the ribbon on America’s newest urban bourbon distillery – Rabbit Hole Distillery…


…Building a Spectacular Modern Distillery

The Rabbit Hole Distillery project started when Zamanian had a conversation with architect Doug Pierson of POD Architecture & Design that lead to the actual distillery design. Kaveh said that “Doug not only beautifully captured my vision, he worked diligently in translating and adapting van der Rohe’s dictum of ‘form follows function’ to ‘form follows process.’ What that means is that he designed 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.” And the final product does just that… READ MORE and see the video…