The original poured-in-place concrete warehouse in downtown Austin dates from the early 1900s and is a prime example of the type of building that once populated the neighborhood. Built alongside a once active railroad spur, the building was purchased from its original owner who had performed almost no alterations to the 1915 building. The original concrete frame and brick infill building had been in continuous use as an unconditioned storage space and suffered from what we call “benign neglect”—it hadn’t been upgraded, but it hadn’t been messed up, either.
The original three-level building was basically a concrete shell, without fire stairs, elevators, or any code-compliant utilities. The new owner desired to create three restaurant spaces on the ground floor, private club and storage spaces in the basement, and office spaces at the upper level. Our challenge was to provide all the amenities and services necessary for contemporary use, while retaining the character of the original warehouse building.
Rather than carving out a large portion of the interior of the existing building for stairs, elevators, mechanical shafts, restrooms, and other new items, we created a new “service structure” adjacent to the building. This not only allowed the unobstructed floor area to remain as large and flexible as possible, but also allowed us to create an expressive pavilion that marked entry to the building. The character of the new addition complements the raw, muscular functionalism of the original building while not attempting to replicate its details. It features open stairs, an articulated steel frame, and clerestory windows that allow light into the bathrooms and lobbies at the upper level.
Architect: Specht Harpman
Contractor: Rizzo Construction
Photography: Taggart Sorenson