Design Excellence Awards
Best in Show Design Excellence Award
Presented to Alterstudio Architecture, LLP
When the Cambridge Tower was completed in 1964, it presented a modern, 15 story residential condominium with offices on the ground floor directly adjacent to The University of Texas at Austin. More than 50 years later, the ground floor offices were a warren of small rooms, lay-in tile ceilings and permanently closed mini-blinds. Into this context was unearthed a small design office.
The space was stripped back, exposing the building’s robust concrete frame alongside notations from the original construction and markings from subsequent renovations. A sound-absorbing Tectum ceiling covers the myriad existing valves and mechanical equipment. This lower service zone creates a smaller scale, intimate atmosphere in the conference room, kitchen, and storage areas and stops short in the open office to reveal the only unadultered portion of the concrete slab. Here, the existing single pane, 11’ tall windows wrap the west and south sides of the working area and foster a strong connection to the street. Shades drop from the ceiling in the afternoon and capture dappled shadows from sunlight filtering through adjacent Oak and Mountain Laurel trees.
A European-cut White Oak floor and rift sawn White Oak cabinets and screens soften the raw concrete frame. Unfinished cork, burlap-wrapped Homasote and mill-finished steel complete the material palette, highlighting the inherent beauty of simple materials. The material qualities of the space, enhanced by changing natural light throughout the day, establish a tranquil but dynamic environment conducive to collaboration, creativity, and productivity. The ensemble of materials serve as touchstones to a firm ethos of creativity and interest in the serendipitous and tangible quality of raw materials.