At the heart of East Austin, an old and uninviting warehouse has been transformed into a creative office building fittingly dubbed UPCycle after its site-sensitive design approach that includes the reuse of the entire building. Gensler led the renovation and updated the space with an additional 16,000 square feet of mezzanine area as well as energy-efficient improvements including new insulation and high-efficiency mechanical systems. The industrial character of the original building has been retained and celebrated as part of an overarching goal to preserve a piece of East Austin history.
Originally built in 1972, the 65,000-square-foot warehouse had originally been used as the former location of the Balcones Recycling Center. Drawing inspiration from the building history, the architects sought to reuse the entire building and integrate reclaimed materials in creative ways. All components found onsite — from the steel structure and metal panel skin to the existing railroad tracks and graffiti art from past exhibitions — were reclaimed or preserved and enhanced. Even the building skin was repurposed and turned inside out to reveal its natural finish.
“By recycling and upcycling 95% of the existing building, approximately 1,830,000 kilograms of embodied carbon dioxide were saved, and the lid of the existing structure significantly lengthened,” Gensler said in a project statement. “This savings amounts to the equivalent of taking nearly 450 cars off the road.”
Expanded to 81,711 square feet, UPCycle now serves as a multi-tenant creative office building. In addition to repurposed materials, the building has been updated with new elements, such as butterfly trusses covered in graffiti by local artists and a new roof with clerestory windows to bring more natural light indoors. To pay homage to the site’s direct access to the adjacent rail lines, Gensler created a new entry lounge from a converted boxcar placed on the building’s original railroad tracks and fitted it with seating, WiFi and music.
Photography by Dror Baldinger via Gensler