Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

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Female, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander owned

New York, NY


SXSW Center: South by Southwest Headquarters

For its new headquarters in downtown Austin, the festival organizer South by Southwest (SXSW) sought an efficient, cutting-edge workplace with a unique image that would speak to the company’s collaborative culture. The building houses SXSW’s consolidated offices, with remaining office floors occupied by tenants with business and production relationships with the company. An ancillary goal of the project was to preserve a grove of heritage live oaks on the southern edge of the site.

To realize these aims, the architects brought ideas from both workplace and hospitality design to the building’s organization, spaces, and amenities, advancing a new paradigm of co-working—not only within each office floor but in open and collaborative spaces shared by SXSW and partner companies at the base and top of the building.

The 13-story tower includes 140,000 square feet of office space on the top six floors and six levels of parking below; SXSW occupies the top three floors. From the office floors, the building’s serpentine form frames a panoramic view of the nearby Capitol dome and skyline beyond, while at ground level it embraces the heritage trees, shaping a welcoming public space that forms the main entry plaza. Complete with rain gardens, an outdoor deck, and landscape features, the plaza provides a serene environment for tenants and visitors alike.

Reflecting SXSW’s collaborative spirit, the lobby and ground floor include both indoor and outdoor co-working spaces as well as retail and support services. With its spacious coffee bar and generous seating, the lobby serves as a lively gathering place that encourages creative exchange among tenants and guests. A palette of terrazzo floors, limestone and Texas-blue plate-steel walls, and open wood lattice ceilings create a non-traditional environment that welcomes casual social interaction.

The office floors feature S-shaped floor plates with column-free spans of over 60 feet, unparalleled in the Austin office market. Along with the clear span, building systems are coordinated to allow for flexible, loft-style open planning, supporting co-working and collaborative layouts.

The building’s high-efficiency glass curtain wall includes metal spandrels and polished aluminum horizontal recesses at each floor. A custom perforated aluminum panel system clads the orthogonal portions of the parking garage and provides for energy-efficient natural ventilation.

With its well-portioned, elegantly detailed facade and distinctive serpentine form, the building creates an iconic identity for SXSW in downtown Austin that expresses the company’s dynamic presence in the city.

On Lavaca Street in downtown Austin

Gross area: 280,000 ft2 / 26,000 m2

SXSW / Greenbelt Commercial

Architecture, exterior envelope, interior design of public spaces

LEED Gold Certified; Austin Energy Green Building Program: 2-Star Rating

Best Project Design: Finalist, Urban Land Institute Austin, 2021

Winner, Commercial Projects, Global Design Awards The Architecture Community, 2020

Award of Merit, Office Buildings Engineering News Record, 2020

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Status: Built
Location: Austin, Texas
Firm Role: Design Architectural Firm
Additional Credits: Architect of Record: Gensler, Austin; Structural: Walter P. Moore Structural Engineers, Kansas City; Mechanical / Electrical / Plumbing: Wylie Consulting Engineers; Landscape: dwg.; Images: Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Paul Warchol