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600 Lawrence – Project Tour

by Katie Hoke

Repurposing a dark, oppressive and disjointed 1980’s sawtooth strip mall, the architects created a bustling, unified and light-filled headquarters for a real estate firm.


The expansive roof overhangs were removed, and new storefronts were added to allow access to natural light throughout the space. A new glass vestibule, limited to 500 square feet due to zoning regulations, engages the street and serve as an entry beacon. A rhythm of dark and light corrugated steel siding, partially masked by an illuminated, textural corten steel screen, playfully accentuates the building’s geometry.


At the interior, seven tenant suites were unified as a singular space for the new headquarters. A portion of the second floor was removed, replaced with a two-story café atrium that serves as a gathering point for agents and clients. Finally, a wood and steel staircase was introduced to provide a dramatic circulation element that links the two previously disconnected levels.



Existing Conditions

Located on a prominent city corner, the existing building did not engage with the street in a meaningful way. Deep overhangs, outdated siding and fenestration gave the building a dark, uninviting presence that did not encourage users to visit the businesses located within. To counteract these conditions, the tenants relied on large, homemade signs to advertise their businesses.



Site Plan

The building’s existing geometry of five small individual units stepping back from the main street made it difficult to accommodate a large open office. The second floor was only accessible from exterior stairs and the covered walkway. The roof overhangs made the building façade and interior spaces dark despite being west facing.



Massing Diagram

The architect proposed removing the hipped roof overhangs and exterior stair at the front of the building.  Though no longer structurally necessary, existing columns and beams were maintained; a transmuted vestige of the original design.  A new stair was added to the second unit combining the first and second floors internally. The entry vestibule was added in the footprint of the old exterior stair giving the building street presence and a sense of hierarchy.



Zoning and Adjacencies

To address the juxtaposition of needs and complex building footprint, small neighborhoods of 8-12 agents were created, each flanked by offices and enclaves so that private space is never more than a few steps away. Providing access to natural light for all agents and support staff was a top priority.


Work Postures

As independent contractors, realtors simultaneously collaborate and internally compete. There is a great need for informal collaborative space alongside visual and acoustic privacy. A combination of private offices and workstations were provided in an open office environment. Agents are constantly in and out of the office throughout the day, so those in the open office are encouraged to pop into private offices and enclaves as needed for confidential conversations.