Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
Appointed by Rock Point Hospitality, BLUR Workshop has completed the Tuscaloosa Co-Working spaces that will help bolster local companies and at the same time has created an architectural design language that would fit within the context of the university town yet feel new and modern.
The Tuscaloosa Co-Working project has recently been awarded a 2023 American Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture, Design, and Urban Studies.
Because the site is in a historic district there is a very limited material palette which calls for a large portion of the facade to be of brick.
The challenge was to make the all-brick building both fit in yet stand out among the surrounding structures, which look similar and are all of red brick.
As a result, the architects decided to use a large modern form that wraps the building, serving as both an awning and the extension of the exterior work terraces.
This modern form is juxtaposed by the use of brick for a majority of the building.
As the brick was a requirement, the architects decided on a grayish/white brick to help set the building apart from all of the red brick buildings nearby.
A second method for modernizing the mainly brick building was to utilize two different window widths, in semi-alternating patterns, to create a sense of rhythm and variation which helped to break up any large swaths of brick.
Last, the architects had city requirements for onsite shared parking but they wanted to make the parking as invisible as possible from the street.
The solution was to continue portions of the brick facade down to ground level, around the parking, via brick screen walls.
The building is situated on 3 parcels at a corner where commercial and low-rise multifamily structures meet.
Right across the street is a red brick YMCA which experiences a lot of foot traffic due to its gym offerings.
To create a sense of place in the community the main public offering of the project is a cafe at the corner of the site.
There are no food/drink offerings near this area of the city so the architects wanted to be sure to provide a community café, which will also serve as an amenity for the co-working and office tenants.
While the site may not contain much landscaping or change in topography, the architects had to contend with a shared entry drive and shared parking spaces, via a right of way, immediately to the right of the property line.
Because of this, the architects were required to put back some public/ADA spaces on the side which led them to the solution of hovering the second and third floors above the right third of the site to tuck parking underneath.
The architects wanted to achieve two things for the tenants/visitors, which were to provide an interesting sense of exploration within the building as well as offer as many exterior terraces as possible.
The architects achieved this by providing two grand staircases, one for both co-working and the larger single tenants and also one only for the co-working space. These stairs, along with the elevators, offer several ways to move vertically allowing for a greater exploration of each level.
The architects were also able to provide eight outdoor terraces allowing all tenants the ability to experience outdoor work areas. Last, the building was designed with a good amount of openness and fairly high ceilings, which will allow for different future uses or varied tenants.
Project: Tuscaloosa Co-Working
Architects: BLUR Workshop
Design Team: Scott Morris and Tim Keepers
Client: Rock Point Hospitality
Photographs: Courtesy of BLUR Workshop