AIA Alabama recognized two ArchitectureWorks projects with Merit Awards at the 2019 Excellence in Design Awards Gala last night at the Florentine in Birmingham. Thank you AIA Alabama and congratulations to all architects and project teams who were honored this year!
A flourishing creative branding agency located in downtown Birmingham, AL found themselves rapidly outgrowing their existing office space, so they sought a new home in a former service garage warehouse that could meet the diverse and conflicting needs of their core operational departments. Following a deep dive into the agency’s office culture and future needs, the design team developed a solution that creates nodes of space tailored to each department’s needs while encouraging engagement and collaboration where the nodes intersect.
These nodes are arranged around, inside, and on top of an oak-clad volume that organizes space within the warehouse. The volume starts as amphitheater bleachers at the office’s entrance that rise to a mezzanine level offering relaxed, open desking. The body of the volume holds enclosed offices and support spaces that line two open bullpens framed by the volume’s voids. At its heart is a whiteboard clad “war room” that links the ground floor bullpens and offices, symbolizing the agency’s creative and collaborative core. The material palate and color schemes are relatively simple, neutral and high contrast, using broad swaths of material and color as a backdrop to the lively, creative process particular to the agency’s work.
The imperfections and irregularities present in the space were embraced and incorporated into the design. Miscellaneous oddities from the building’s days as a service garage were left in the steel roof system and painted a uniform white to leave textural interest while echoes of past improvements were left on the brick interior walls.
“I like the variety of workspaces and functions that they were able to create within that one shell – a great example of what the modern workspace can be.” – Juror Nicola Springer
This project repurposes an abandoned garden center into a contemporary take on a traditional German style biergarten. The owner and design team acknowledged early in the process that the quirky existing building and location of the concept in a Birmingham, Alabama entertainment district posed some challenges to the development of an authentic biergarten atmosphere. Embracing these factors led them toward a concept that cleverly reused existing building elements such as an overly-exaggerated, stone-gabled entrance, the galvanized frame of a greenhouse, and hooped shade structures while treating them with contemporary finishes, insertions and landscape elements. Visitors are greeted by a juxtaposition of modern and kitsch—planar steel and wood features contrast sharply with displays of surrealist taxidermy and neon. The large, air-conditioned greenhouse ‘dining room’ is designed around an enormous carved limestone bar and beer ‘fountain’ that is set directly across from a large, concrete Honduran wood-fired grill, allowing the preparation of the food and beverage elements to become a sort of theater within the lush landscaping and common seating of the dining area. Beyond the dining room is a garden of hedged rooms beneath the hooped pole structure of a former shade garden. Tea olive hedges form private gathering spaces directly adjacent to a white marble ping-pong table and marble framed lawn bowling pitch.
“I think it is commendable that they used the existing nursery building in its entirety, leaving it as a reminder of what the building once was, while with the limited means and simple materials, creating an ambiance that flows between the exterior and the interior of the building.” – Juror Fernando Brave