By the mid-2010s, Austin, Texas, was already on its way to becoming a boomtown. The combination of a flourishing urban center and low cost of doing business had earned the city the #2 spot as a “market to watch” from the Urban Land Institute in 2015—a designation Paul Clayton was painfully aware of as his search for a new office building entered its third year.
Clayton is a principal of Clayton Korte, a Texas hospitality and residential architecture firm. His Austin-based staff had been divided between two locations, and Clayton was looking for a space to better foster whole-team camaraderie. An unlikely prospect delivered him the solution: the Balcones Building, a 50-year-old property on North Lamar. The structure was in questionable condition—the foundations had slipped over the years on its mushy creekside soil—and its blocky, awkward massing was broken up by small windows. Yet Clayton saw potential in the building’s bones, proximity to downtown, and abundant parking (which extends to the roof of the office, thanks to its steep siting). And though the Balcones Building was more space than they needed, there was an opportunity to build a contemporary workspace that could serve a larger design community.
Today the structure—since rebranded the Design Office—is the home base for both Clayton Korte and Word + Carr, a landscape group that occupies the ground level. The two have worked together on several projects, including the new Albert Hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas, as well as Design Office itself. In combination with cohesive furniture specification across the building’s two floors, colocating the studios also had a less tangible benefit: “When someone walks into the building, it isn’t apparent where each begins and the other ends,” said Clayton. “It’s a sleight of hand in terms of the perceived horsepower of our firm.”