• The renovation breathed new life into what was once an aging warehouse behind a television repair shop. Photo by Casey Dunn

Location Austin
Client Baldridge Architects
Architect Baldridge Architects
Design Team Burton Baldridge, AIA; Michael Hargens
Photographers Casey Dunn

As Baldridge Architects sought to relocate its office in Austin, the firm settled on a location within the charming residential neighborhood of Clarksville. Surprisingly, the particular site they selected was an unassuming masonry warehouse at the rear of an aging midcentury television repair shop. The resulting renovation, per the jury, is laudable for maintaining a striking, minimal aesthetic while also deferring to the history and scale of its context. This would prove to be just one of many commendable contrasts woven throughout the project.

At a mere 1,450 sf, the studio maximizes its small footprint, comfortably accommodating nine workstations in an open configuration, as well as a glazed conference room, modest kitchenette, bathroom, and materials library.

Photographs of the project expertly showcase the most critical aspect of the space: its masterful approach to daylighting. Light and treetop views spill into the studio from all sides, most dramatically from a narrow, floor-to-ceiling window that seamlessly folds into a deep light well at its east facade. “I think the architects were very, very careful in strategically using their skills where it mattered, which were the few openings of the windows,” juror Vivian Lee says.

The interiors, while intimate, are quite airy, also due in part to a restrained material strategy. White walls ricochet light around the studio, yet the dark Cumaru wood floors anchor the scene, lending the workspace warmth and richness.

The presentation of the project in its Design Award submission was also noteworthy for its inclusion of meticulous plan, elevation, and section drawings that clearly demonstrated that the project was carefully considered from all angles. Material seam alignments, landscaping gestures, neighboring structures, and scale figures for human, furniture, and vehicles are all clearly defined in these drawings, often presented opposite imagery of the realized space or detail.

As may be expected with any space designed by an architecture firm for their own use, the architects’ submission touched on, in the words of Eric Cesal, Assoc. AIA, the palpable “element of agitprop in operation.” There is an overt desire to indulge in an aesthetic that, per client requests, is often tempered. Here, the jury celebrated the firm’s desire to double-down on its minimalist inclinations, while doing so with sensitivity. Baldridge notes that the project demonstrates “how a building can be simultaneously simple and dynamic, minimalist and inviting, off-putting and warm.”

With a submission format supplemented by documentation echoing those elemental ideals, the firm rightly earned the praise of the jury. “I think if you’re not careful you might almost overlook the West Lynn studio,” Lee says. “It’s incredibly minimalistic, and all its expertise is in the alignment of everything and the few details that were afforded in this renovation project.”

Christopher Ferguson, AIA, is an architect at Clickspring Design and co-founder of DO.GROUP.

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