The 21-acre site of the Great Hills Corporate Center fronts on a major arterial loop in Austin, Texas. The design challenge was to place 197,000 square feet of office space in a steep, densely wooded setting without destroying the very characteristics that made the site unique. A strict zoning ordinance established a maximum building height of 35 feet above undisturbed ground, complicating the design parameters. The client, moreover, wanted a design that would clearly set his project apart from the ubiquitous dark-glass boxes that increasingly dotted the western hills of Austin. The project became an exercise in sensitive site planning, optimized solar orientation, and responsive geometry.
The site's southwest slope provides views across the hills, toward Austin. The building is placed mid-slope in order to use the incline to maximum view and energy-saving advantage. The building's shape, a gentle curve broken by a parallelogram, is emerged from studying the site's contours, solar considerations, and orientation of views.
In a climate where air-conditioning is used year round, the western face is deeply carved to avoid the worst source of heat gain: the afternoon summer sun. The southern fenestration incorporates horizontal windows, divided into two bands: the upper band utilizes clear glass with scalloped screening to maximize natural light penetration deep into the office space, while the lower band of glass is tinted to reduce solar gain while still allowing the office inhabitants full views to the outside.
“Harmony within the eco-system, the site, the regulatory framework, the program, the choices of systems and materials,