With the goal of creating a space that inspires collaboration within its firm while also supporting the revitalization efforts of downtown San Antonio, Overland Partners transformed the 1917 Hughes Plumbing Warehouse into an innovative yet functional studio space. The renovation preserves the openness and industrial character of the original building, maintaining its expansive 18-ft ceilings and preexisting structural grid. An array of meeting spaces organized within the grid serve as the primary organizational component for the studio, a strategy that has enhanced creative collaboration and communication between staff while also facilitating project reviews, client meetings, design charrettes, and visiting student critiques.
In a bold design decision, the project team removed 1,200 square feet of roof space and inserted generous load-bearing curtain walls to create a courtyard that unfolds beyond the existing brick façade. The resultant space is an unexpected public gathering spot that opens the building to the street and provides access to adjacent tenant spaces. The existing loading dock openings are fitted with custom perforated steel gates—patterned off an abstraction of a Jackson Pollock painting—to provide cohesion with the neighboring arts and design district, and serve as a reminder of the building’s graffitied past. The courtyard has since become a hub of activity for the neighborhood, acting as a venue for events like live music, classes, and art exhibitions.
With the attitude that the most sustainable building is the one that is already built, existing elements were cleaned up but remain largely intact. Glass and steel components, such as punched windows and a window wall overlooking the courtyard, were integrated into the existing longleaf pine and brick structure, providing natural light and ventilation to interior spaces. The project also integrates sophisticated systems that optimize the building’s performance: shade control governed by the astronomical clock; automated lighting sensitive to occupancy and daylight levels; 65 kW solar panels on the insulated roof that meet about 50% of the building’s energy needs; and an HVAC system that allows individual control of each conference room.
Materials were repurposed wherever possible. Furniture from the previous office was remilled and reassembled to create workstations that support the open office plan. Timber salvaged from the roof and ceiling was repurposed as stair treads and for board-formed concrete poured onsite. Sections of otherwise unusable concrete floor became pavers in the alley, transforming a neglected zone into a vibrant outdoor meeting space. The renovation of the warehouse along the banks of the San Antonio River in the burgeoning River North district of downtown San Antonio has transformed not only a building but an organizational culture and neighborhood.