By rehabbing a shabby warren of small rooms filled with lay-in ceiling tiles and permanently closed mini blinds, this architect’s office reinvigorates the ground floor of the historic Cambridge Tower, a 15-story condo building located between the University of Texas at Austin campus and the Texas State Capitol. Ultimately a personal endeavor, this office allows the architect to present its work to the public while demonstrating the collaborative work effort that is key to the firm’s success.
Functioning as both architect and client, the team used this renovation to exemplify the design values espoused by the firm. Through clever manipulation of light and attention to detail, the office reveals the intersection of architecture’s material facts and the social occasions it invites.
The spaces were laid bare, exposing the tower’s concrete frame as well as notations from the original construction and later renovations. Sound-absorbing TECTUM ceiling panels, composed of aspen wood fibers, were used for a drop ceiling to cover an array of valves and mechanical equipment. Forming a lower service zone, the ceiling contributes to an intimate atmosphere throughout the space, ending in the open office to reveal an unadulterated segment of the concrete slab. The original 11-foot windows hug the south and west sides of the open area, enhancing the connection to the street and highlighting the presence of the design profession in Austin. Shades that can be lowered from the ceiling provide a backdrop for dappled shadows cast by sunlight filtering through the on-site oak and mountain laurel trees.
Softening the concrete are a European-cut white oak floor and rift-sawn white oak cabinets and screens. The team turned to burlap-wrapped Homasote and mill-finished steel to round out the palette and demonstrate the beauty found in simple materials. In concert with the shifting natural daylight that fills the space, the materials promote a tranquil but dynamic space conducive to creativity and productivity.