The structure serves as a wholesale showroom of products made by prisoners in the State Prison system.

The project began when the owner showed the design team a picture of a metal building with a faux brick beltline, pronouncing that the building was to be completed in six months and that the budget was $700,000.00. It was also added that, unlike the picture, windows were to be minimized, for fear that the building’s connection to the prison system would make it a target for vandalism.

The project began as a metal building, at $85.00 per square foot, with no windows.

The site is on a busy urban artery with both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. It is only a block away from the State Capitol complex, and the immediate neighborhood even includes two sidewalk cafes. It is not a neighborhood of windowless sheds. While studying the movements of the street, the team developed a deep appreciation for the hard work and notable architectural success within the neighborhood, a community of predominately Mexican heritage. Respect for the neighborhood became the essential barometer for the design process.

The process considered the works of Luis Barragán for culturally founded elements and colors (including a pink scheme rejected by the owner). The simple and rational order of planes is expressed in a manner analogous to Barragán, but the antithesis of color was made obvious with a monochromatic scheme, emphasizing varying texture of planes rather than color. Brick, metal, concrete, glass, and polycarbonate provided a variety of textural qualities to embellish a simple form. With the team’s assurances that slit windows would make difficult targets and that polycarbonate panels would resist such vandalism, the owner became receptive to the importance of engaging the neighboring streets with apertures, and to the benefits of spilled light that would enliven the showroom of prison wares. Employees as well as prison made rocking horses all benefit from the container full of north light.

The building was completed within six months of the original meeting. The costs were $711,500.00 or about $83.00 per square foot.

The building remains a shed in form, structure, and purpose. It is a good neighbor.