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Midcentury pizzazz restored to notable central Austin office building

Mark Odom Studio brings the 1960 structure back to vivid life

Nighttime photo of a corner of a rectangular brick building with floor-to-ceiling windows. Midcentury-style conference room furniture is arranged inside. A cluster of tall buildings is in the distant background.
BKCW building on North Lamar
All photos by Leonid Furmansky

The one-story office building at 2001 North Lamar Boulevard is one of those city spots that doesn’t announce its presence loudly, but it has a style that passerby tend to notice over and over again. Longtime Austinites might even find it baked in to something like their muscle memory; it’s not usually 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 kept its basic form, holding down space on a swoop on North Lamar overlooking Pease Park while downtown grew steadily to its south, its interior suffered from being remodeled and subdivided over the years.

Luckily, that situation didn’t deter Austin insurance company BKCW (not the company for which it was built, but neat circle of life, eh?) purchased the building with the intent of renovating the building for use as its offices. BKCW was also savvy to hire Mark Odom Studio for the renovation design—the firm overhauled Austin’s Bumble headquarters, also located in a midcentury building, a couple of years ago and has been part of notable renovations of or in local historical buildings such as Seaholm Power Plant and Rosewood restaurant.

The owners of BKCW thought the midcentury vibe embodied the company’s outlook, and Odom undertook its revitalization in that spirit. Renovating the 3,000-square-foot building presented structural as well as cosmetic challenges, and the company approached it as a preservation-minded, adaptive reuse project (albeit one returned to its original use rather than transformed for a new one).

Photo of an midcentury office building at dusk. It’s made up of two connected, horizontal, one-story brick structures with walls of windows on both longest sides. The structure closes to the road is cantilevered over a driveway. There is a tapered concrete post under that part of the building. Leonid Furmansky
Photo of an office courtyard in a corner of thwo intersecting, one-story, horizontal brick buildings with a row of floor-to-ceiling windows. Low-slung outdoor chairs and a small round table are arranged facing the interior. There’s a large tree and am angled limestone retaining wall on the right. Office furniture is arranged inside the buildling. Leonid Furmansky
Photo of a horizontal, one-story brick building with double glass doors and flanking windows sett off-center and a sign with the letters BKCW on the top left corner. Leonid Furmansky

“Preserving this iconic, 60-year-old building was of course a must—but tricky to pull off,” said Odom. “Raising the roof and ceiling, opening the interior, and finding vintage brick were just a few of the big design choices that helped it really come to life.”

The new design also opens up the space, allowing in more natural light from the glass facades—a nod to the office style preferred by insurance and advertising companies in the mid-1960s as well one that’s seen a resurgence in recent decades.

Odom salvaged as much existing brick as possible and replaced existing storefront windows with new, energy-efficient glazing, framed with steel mullions to match the original window pattern. Midcentury materials, including additional vintage brick, stained wood paneling, and cork flooring, were used as much as possible. The original low ceilings were raised to eight feet inside the building, with attention to continuity in materials allowing a seamless transition from outside.

Photo of a midcentury office building interior with a brick wall extending partially inside, a steel door with a glass inset to the left, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows to the right. Four modern armchairs are arranged around a round modern table on the right. Leonid Furmansky
Photo of an office with a textured back wall, a modern credenza and rolling chair, and a rectangular desk extending to the credenza. There are floor-to-ceiling windows on the right size. There’s a stainless steel task light on the desk and a painting propped on the credenza. Leonid Furmansky
Photo of a large office in a modernist building. There’s a wall of windows covered by a sheer panels. A couch with end tables and a modern armchair are arranged around a rectangular coffee table with a chess set on top are to the left. A large executive modern desk table with two modern office chairs are arranged to the right. Leonid Furmansky

The renovation provided a respite from busy Lamar traffic with the addition of a subterranean back courtyard, overlooked by the building’s eastern windows. Decks on the western and southern sides of the structure were added or expanded to accentuate downtown and park views, emphasize period-style horizontality, create larger entryways, and buffer traffic noise.

The entrance to a modernist office building. It has a glass door and transom with steel frames hardwood floors.There’s a low, midcentury-style bench to the right and a round table with Knoll-type dining chairs in the background. Leonid Furmansky
Photo of an exterior brick wall with a slatted, open roof and wood deck. Leonid Furmansky
Photo of an office building with a glass-walled conference room that extends out onto a metal-fenced, concrete walkway. There’s a midcentury-style conference table in the room, and a light-skinned person with dark hair sits working in front of a laptop. Leonid Furmansky

In another savvy move, Odom brought on interior designer Kimberly Renner to collaborate on select interior finishes as well as furnishings, lighting, and vintage art for the building, sourced from the Renner Project. Franklin-Alan was the builder on the project.