Inside the midcentury modern restoration of an iconic Austin building

The one-story office building on North Lamar Boulevard 2001 is one of those places in the city that doesn’t announce its presence loudly, but has a style that passers-by notice time and time again. Longtime Austinites may even find it burned into something like their muscle memory; It’s usually not top of mind, but it’s distinctive enough to be memorable.

Built in 1960 for a life insurance company, the building was designed by Austin firm Pendley and Day for a life insurance company. While the modernist structure retained its basic shape and held its place on a nosedive on North Lamar overlooking Pease Park, while the downtown area in the south grew steadily, its interiors suffered from remodeling and subdivision over the years.

Fortunately, that situation hasn’t stopped Austin insurance company BKCW (not the company it was built for, but a decent lifecycle, eh?) From buying the building with the intention of renovating the building for office use. BKCW was also adept at hiring Mark Odom Studio for the renovation design – the company renovated Bumble headquarters in Austin, also in a mid-century building, several years ago and was part of notable renovations on or in local historic buildings such as Seaholm Power Plant and Rosewood Restaurant.

The owners of BKCW felt that the mid-century sentiment typified the company’s outlook, and Odom undertook the revitalization with that in mind. The renovation of the 3,000-square-foot building posed both structural and cosmetic challenges, and the company viewed it as a conservation-oriented, adaptive reuse project (although one returned to its original use rather than converting it to a new one).

Leonid Furmansky

Photo of an office courtyard in a corner of two intersecting, single story, horizontal brick buildings with a series of floor to ceiling windows.  Low outdoor chairs and a small round table face inward.  There is a large tree and an angled limestone retaining wall on the right.  Office furniture is arranged in the building.

Leonid Furmansky

Photo of a horizontal, single story brick building with double glass doors and flanking windows off-center and a sign with the letters BKCW in the upper-left corner.

Leonid Furmansky

“Preserving this iconic 60-year-old building was of course a must – but difficult to do,” said Odom. “Raising the roof and ceiling, opening up the interior, and finding vintage bricks were just a few of the big design decisions that helped make it really come to life.”

The new design also opens up the space, letting in more natural light from the glass facades – a nod to the office style that insurance and advertising companies preferred in the mid-1960s and that has revived in recent decades.

Odom saved as much of the existing brick as possible, replacing existing storefronts with new, energy-efficient glazing that was framed with steel posts to match the original window pattern. Mid-century materials, including additional vintage bricks, stained wood paneling, and cork floors, were used as much as possible. The original low ceilings were raised to eight feet inside the building, taking care to maintain the continuity of materials that allowed for a seamless transition from the outside.

Photo of a mid-century office building interior with a partially inward-protruding brick wall, a steel door with a glass insert on the left, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows on the right.  To the right of a round modern table are four modern armchairs.

Leonid Furmansky

Photo of an office with a textured back wall, modern sideboard and wheelchair, and a rectangular desk that extends to the sideboard.  There are floor-to-ceiling windows of the right size.  There is a stainless steel work lamp on the desk and a painting on the sideboard.

Leonid Furmansky

Photo of a large office in a modernist building.  There is a wall of windows covered by transparent panels.  A couch with side tables and a modern armchair are arranged on the left around a rectangular coffee table on which there is a game of chess.  On the right is a large modern desk with two modern office chairs.

Leonid Furmansky

The renovation provided a break from the busy Lamar traffic with an underground back yard towered over by the east windows of the building. Decks on the west and south sides of the building have been added or expanded to accentuate the view of the city center and the park, emphasize the horizontality in the style of the era, create larger entrances and reduce traffic noise.

The entrance to a modernist office building.  It has a glass door and a wooden-framed steel-framed mirror.  To the right is a low, mid-century bench, and in the background is a round table with Knoll dining chairs.

Leonid Furmansky

Photo of a brick wall with a slatted frame, open roof and wooden deck.

Leonid Furmansky

Photo of an office building with a glass-walled conference room extending onto a metal-fenced concrete walkway.  There is a mid-century style conference table in the room, and a light-skinned person with dark hair is sitting in front of a laptop and working.

Leonid Furmansky

In another smart move, Odom hired interior designer Kimberly Renner to collaborate on selected interior designs, as well as furniture, lighting and vintage art for the building that came from the Renner project. Franklin-Alan was the builder of the project.

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