As many Austinites—particularly longtime East Austinites—are keenly aware, the current construction explosion along East 12th Street was preceded by decades of stasis, characterized by blocks of vacant lots punctuated by the occasional, often boarded-up small business or residential building and some semi-active intersections. Now those areas are seeing a flurry of building activity, often by out-of-town developers.
Next Door Creative Studios, the 26,000-square-foot project going up on the north side of East 12th Street between Navasota and San Bernard streets, is, in some subtle and important ways, an exception. It’s designed and developed by locals Pollen Architecture, which operated out of a nifty, minimalist building on the corner of the lot starting in 2002. Pollen principal Elizabeth Alford and team designed the project to be a “good neighbor,” she said, with moderate building heights that are compatible with surrounding houses and entries that mirror front porches of residences on the other side of 12th Street. The building and its interior spaces are also integrated with the outdoors on all sides, with large, operable windows all around and separate entries for workspaces creating a feeling of accessibility and openness.
The height of the buildings—which feature steel structures, open-web ceilings, metal box rib sheeting, concrete wall panels, and concrete floors—varies from one to three floors, adding visual and spatial variety to the streetscape. Next Door also aims to be neighborly by making special offerings available to local artists.
The complex is anchored by a heritage post oak tree (formerly a standout feature of the firm’s office courtyard) at one end and an elevated terrace at the other. Pollen’s experience building artists’s spaces ensured a design that has an abundance of natural light, high ceilings, and sturdy materials. Some of the building components are custom-designed; it’s clad in site-poured concrete panels inscribed with a light-catching linear pattern—something that’s becoming a bit of a Pollen trademark.
Texas construction firm Structura, whose work can be seen around town in such spaces as the Violet Crown Cinema, Milk & Honey Spa, and with green space designed by TenEyck Landscape Architects. The building is scheduled to be completed at the end of January.