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Best in City Center – Houston Design Excellence Award
Presented to Abel Design Group
AZA Law Firm
Houston, Texas

Project Description:

AZA is a growing Houston based trial law firm which built its reputation on being “talented, tough and court-room tested” handling high-stakes litigation for multinational companies. AZA challenged the design team to create a space that would be hard edged for opposing council while comfortable, functional and pleasing for their hard-working employees.

The designers utilized a combination of visual contrasts to achieve the intimidation factor in the public areas and a monochromatic scheme for a soothing and light filled employee area. One of the key areas of achieving intimidation through strong contrast is with the lighting design. A visitor to the space is greeted first by a black elevator lobby with strong lighting accents. As one continues to progress into the space they go from light to dark to light again. In order to give the client maximum flexibility the lighting is all dimmable and controlled by a control system which can be programmed to save on energy when the rooms are not in use and after hours. In addition, 95% of the lighting throughout the suite is energy efficient LED fixtures. The lighting control system also operates the motorized solar shades which block harmful UV rays, glare, and heat gain while maintaining a visual connection to stunning high rise views. The design of the conference room area relies heavily on the natural light from the floor to ceiling windows to provide brightly lit conference rooms which sit in stark contrast to the black hallway that leads to them. Glass entries to each conference room allow the natural light to filter into the dark corridor otherwise only minimally lit, also reducing the number of light fixtures. In combination, the dark ominous hallway and abundantly bright conference rooms are intended to be off-putting enough to opposing council to set the tone for the tough negotiations that await them!

Once through the doors from the public areas, a serene office setting awaits the firm’s employees and offers a pleasant atmosphere for their long days at the office. Walls and flooring in light gray tones are soft and welcoming. The project designers wanted to bring light into the interior of the space yet still maintain visual and sound privacy for the attorneys in the private offices. Clearstory glass at all the exterior offices accomplishes this goal and allows light to pour into the space. The designers were also able to leave 1 office out of the end of the hallway near each corner of the building to provide a light break and help light penetrate into the interior and open work areas.

AZA is a successful project because it meets the goals set by the client, achieves energy efficiency and comfort to the employees all through strategic use of light, dark, contrast and technology.