Design Alabama
Design Alabama


A 1961 International-style Building Renovated for Office Space

Adaptive reuse projects have played a significant role in revitalizing downtown Birmingham.  Just about every type of building you can name has found a new purpose in the Magic City – from warehouses, mid-20th century modern high-rises and car dealerships to the city’s Federal Reserve Building and Greyhound Bus Terminal.

Many of Birmingham’s early buildings were spared the wrecking ball during urban renewal in the 1950s and 60s that changed the face of numerous cities nationwide. As a result, Birmingham has had a large inventory of older, often neglected, buildings in need of a new purpose.

Among the latest is the former Gulf Oil Company’s local headquarters on Highland Avenue, a thriving area of downtown Birmingham now known as the Highland Professional District. Williams Blackstock Architects worked with the new owners, Stone River Property Management, to repurpose the three-story, 83,000-square-foot building with 54,435 rentable feet of office space.

When the International-style building was renovated in 1990, it was given a red brick façade. Williams Blackstock’s renovation gives the building a more contemporary and impressive appearance, achieved by using precast stone and glass additions which adds to the building’s lighter and brighter look.

“This is the third time the building has been renovated,” notes Principal Architect Joel Blackstock of this current dramatic makeover. “It was originally a C- or B office building and we took it to a class A.”

Inside, the building has a new entry forecourt and the lobby was treated to new flooring, bronze paneling and an open stairway. To reinvigorate an understated doorway, a grand entry sequence and formal entry plaza was created. The main lobby was opened up with the use of large glass paneling to let in more light and create a fresher impression, which also reinforces the connection to the street. The lacquer panels, wood floors and soapstone counters help create a refined and polished interior in harmony with the overall renovation.

All interior finishes were restored with the use of large format tile and warm wood tones. These finishes were also used throughout the corridors and common spaces.  The floor-to-ceiling curtain wall in the conference room allows for abundant natural light.

One design challenge was the lack of connection between the raised parking lot in the dark area in back of the building, which was unwelcoming and unsafe. So, the rear entry was opened to match the front lobby and enhanced with a monumental stair to welcome employees and visitors. A landscaped crosswalk was added, along with an outdoor stair leading to the parking lot. The area now provides an improved sense of security with gated access and lighting.





*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Williams Blackstock Architects


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