- Pollen Architecture
- Ten Eyck Landscape Architects
Spanning the width of a block along East 12th Street in East Austin, this 27,000-square-foot creative campus consists of four office buildings clustered around a shared courtyard, with leasable units ranging in size from 250 to 2,000 square feet. Clad in concrete and metal, the relatively low-slung buildings tie into the small scale of neighboring bungalow houses, with gaps and landscaping creating a sense of porosity and openness.
One of the ironies of architecture is that sometimes a project can be successful for the way it doesn’t stand out. Next Door Creative Offices strikes a rare balance between blending in with the scale of the neighborhood while also establishing a distinct sense of identity and place within its borders.
Pollen Architecture provides studio workspace with the qualities one might find in other cities’ repurposed industrial lofts: high ceilings; natural light; flexible layouts; and sturdy industrial materials like metal and concrete. The creative offices are occupied by architecture and design firms, artist studios, a makerspace, and software design companies.
Pollen established their first studio on this same block in 2003, and gradually acquired the surrounding lots before redeveloping the entire block as a creative campus anchored by their own new studio building. Having spent nearly two decades in the neighborhood, principal Elizabeth Alford, Assoc. AIA, and her partner Michael Young (fellow founding principal and artist-in-residence) were well-acquainted with the challenges that artists and other creatives face finding studio space in Austin’s ever-accelerating real estate market.
As longtime denizens, the architects sought to harmonize with the existing scale and rhythm of the mostly residential neighborhood. The building massing is primarily horizontal, with three low-slung volumes along East 12th Street gradually growing taller in tandem with the upward slope of the road. A division between the concrete-clad ground level and the metal-clad levels above emphasizes this horizontality and corresponds to the porch heights of nearby houses. The cladding materials all feature vertical patterns, including an impressive variety of raked and ribbed textures in concrete, metal, and wood. The form liners used to cast the ribbed concrete panels were repurposed: painted a warm ochre color, they may be seen in the porch-like entry vestibules at each unit entrance.
Generous gaps between the buildings allow passage into a lush, shared courtyard anchored by a heritage oak tree and bordered with rain gardens—one of several passive sustainability strategies that helped the project garner a 4-star rating from Austin Energy Green Building. Rather than a typical commercial storefront system, a structural silicone glazed (SSG) curtain wall was used for the windows at ground level. The lack of visible exterior mullions (the divisions between panes on a window) allows the eye to travel uninterrupted through the building to the courtyard, creating a feeling of transparency and openness. Tenants access their units via wide exterior paths shaded by deep overhangs adjacent to the shared courtyard, so that a sense of community and connectedness with nature is stitched into the everyday use of the building. – Kalen McNamara, AIA
AEGB 4-Star (Austin Energy Green Building)