• Open area showing the white-washed original structure and minimal earth-toned accents. - photo by Clay Grier

MT7 brings high design to the Tall City.

Project MT7
Location Midland
Client Kennedy Minerals
Architect Remote
Design Team Stephen “Chick” Rabourn, AIA
Contractor Ronnie Wood
Mechanical Engineer BSA Consulting Engineers
Structural Engineer Nieman Engineering
Interior Design Remote and Fox Fox Studio
Lighting Consultant Jacinda Ross
Acoustics ASC Acoustic Sciences
Photographer Clay Grier

Just a three-hour drive separates Midland’s industrial hub from Marfa’s art mecca. While both towns reside within the mineral-rich Permian Basin, their cultural constitutions are worlds apart. Marfa has a cache, from its reach as a military base to its role in the 1956 film Giant and the continued influence of Donald Judd. Today, Marfa is known for its small-town charm, mysterious lights, and minimalist art, which contrast with Midland’s reputation as an oil and gas capital. This interior renovation by the Marfa-based Remote studio attempts to merge these worlds of mineralogy and minimalism by reimagining a single-floor office space in downtown Midland. 

Nestled along the southern edge of Centennial Park, the stately Midland Tower exudes a mix of modernist and art deco styles through its geometric details, aluminum windows, and spandrel panels that aim to accentuate the verticality of its 10-story envelope. Midcentury vibes abound at street level, with quarried stone and precast concrete juxtaposed against aluminum and glass. This material medley continues into the lobby, where stunning terrazzo floors are complemented by inlaid wood and aluminum detailing. As a tribute to the original 1948 building, the lobby’s aluminum letterboxes and mail chutes remain intact.

Entering the newly renovated office floor, visitors are met with the stillness of a tripartite photographic panel of a train—frozen in time and space and stretching across the stark topographic landscape of West Texas; the artwork is slung behind a small seating area centered on one of seven custom carpets designed for the space by Brazilian artist Regina Silveira. A smooth drywall ceiling slightly compresses the space, adding a sense of calm to the entry. To the left is a bespoke limestone reception desk, supported by a dark steel frame and topped with a datum of warm white oak. 

Immediately behind the reception area, a partially frosted glass plane simultaneously manufactures aural separation from the adjacent office spaces and maintains a connection between the exterior windows and interior core. Here, we first glimpse the original one-way concrete joist and structural slab above. Indirect linear lighting is combined with recessed lights, creating a luminous backdrop and directing focus toward the reception area and its division from the office areas beyond. 

Moving away from the low-ceilinged core and past the elevator, the wood floor silently directs visitors toward the social garden area. Once within this linear space, the dropped ceiling terminates to again unveil the parallel concrete joists that reinforce the visual connection to Centennial Park. The light-filled space offers three separate sitting areas, including a library to the west and a glass-walled conference room to the east. Together, these spaces provide an almost 180-degree vista toward the street and buildings beyond.

This is the Tall City, and the windows along the east, west, and southern facades face toward their immediate neighbors, creating  a sense of urban proximity. A series of private offices amplify this closeting while still maintaining ample natural light and an intimate setting. 

The original aluminum bifold windows are terrific. Refurbished in Lubbock and reinstalled during the renovation, they are manually operated: as the central frame pushes outward, the side frames slide inward. This again amplifies the vertical elements of the facade while allowing the sights and sounds of downtown Midland to permeate the interior. This reincarnation of a historic building into an aesthetic experience akin to those so often found in Marfa is disrupted only when one looks out the window and is transported back to Midland.

The exposed original structure of the ceiling alleviates some of the floor-to-floor height restrictions and allows the sculptural, repetitive concrete elements to become a central visual component. This detail occurs along the perimeter of the building; the HVAC ductwork is kept to the core, allowing the edge of the office plate to open sectionally toward the envelope. The concrete ceiling is painted white and is complemented by concrete pillars with a rough, white plaster finish. This materiality is enhanced by bidirectional white cylindrical sconces that highlight the structure’s vertical elements while also softening their appearance within the space. The blonde wood floor pairs with the mineral minimalism of the fossilized limestone, clear plate glass, and warmer oak accents, all offset by the white walls and ceilings. This limited material palette allows for well-appointed furniture, artwork, and built-ins to punctuate moments throughout the office.

The library is situated in the corner of the space. Bookending the garden area, this corner is defined by a large set of aluminum bifold windows, which are softened by a sheer white curtain that adds to the overall ambience. The silvery sky of an overcast day matches the exposed aluminum shelving brackets, while the industrial-looking metal horizontals expertly contrast warm details including an antique map closet and leather swivel chairs on white metal bases. 

While a minimal and light-filled aesthetic is present throughout the office, one small, enclosed sitting room breaks the norm. Upon entering it, one immediately encounters the dark embrace of deep smoky brown walls and a rust-colored carpet accented with cyan shells. A vintage black leather couch, wooden coffee table, mustard-colored chairs, and a small inset bookshelf with lead crystal drinkware adorn this austere space. Only a small glimpse of the light wood flooring is left exposed. While the dark-painted surfaces intend to echo the elegance of wood-paneled walls, they only partially capture that richness, lacking the depth and grain of the organic materials used elsewhere in the office.

The custom carpets throughout the space all feature collaged fossils from the Permian era of the region. Rich colors ground the figures, which include shells, leaves, bugs, and other organic matter often embedded within rock formations. Paired with these unique floor coverings, curated collections of furniture and artwork create moments of pause and reflection in addition to providing pops of color within the open office and transition areas. 

Just beyond the conference room, flanking the eastern elevation, is the hall of maps and Mineraux Imaginaries gallery. This linear space extends along the edge of the building and is washed with soft light from a series of windows along the eastern facade. Three backlit glass art pieces featuring geologic formations bring color into the space. Below, long storage cabinets stretch the length of the walls and offer ample counter-height surfaces for unrolling and inspecting the maps for which this business is known.

One other artwork worth mentioning is a fountain constructed from an array of garden hoses. While the original renovation design included a space for a fountain with water, plumbing and maintenance concerns required that this feature be modified into an artistic interpretation. The piece is marvelous in the space, bringing color and depth to its small alcove. With the many hard surfaces throughout the office—glass, exposed concrete ceilings, drywall, and wooden floors—an actual fountain, with the white noise of moving water, might have offered an additional layer of aural depth. 

At MT7, white oak, locally mined limestone, and metal details contrast with the white swaths of the walls and ceiling. The stripped-down interior finishes and natural materials create a muted backdrop for the beautifully appointed artwork throughout, bringing an unexpected sense of minimalist calm to Midland. This renovated interior unearths the best of both worlds—Marfa and Midland—that truly captures the unique charm of West Texas.

Peter S. Raab, AIA, is a practicing architect, an associate professor, and the director of the Ecological Architecture + Design Program at the Huckabee College of Architecture at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. 

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