Special Olympics Texas Headquarters

Austin, Texas 

Special Olympics Texas, a highly respected nonprofit organization, provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Their new headquarters building integrates several distinct programmatic functions under one roof: administrative office, conference and special event center, and athletic equipment warehouse. It is also a resource and welcome center for the families of current and future special needs athletes; and it is the hub of collaboration between staff, leadership and volunteers in support of Special Olympics in Texas.

Stewardship of donor resources steered the design towards a palette of modest, cost-effective materials used in creative ways. Being a multifunctional facility, a large multipurpose room hosts quarterly board meetings of representatives from all 19 Texas regions – where on a more regular basis, the same space subdivides and reconfigures for use as a work room and event staging location in support of state-wide athletic events. Likewise, outdoor hardscape and lawn areas on the site can also serve as small athletic instructional locations for volunteer training.

Staff members’ stated objectives for the building were to create a “work-happening place that is warm, familiar, inviting, Texas Hill Country, casual, accessible, flexible, durable, and resourceful.” Locally quarried limestone anchors the building in the Hill Country, while exposed steel and wood structure lend a warm dignity to the common spaces that seeks to honor the work of staff and volunteers, even as they themselves honor the athletes and families they serve and support.

Environmental sustainability was also an important programming objective. Given the modest budget of a nonprofit, the design team focused on several cost-effective strategies to optimize the beautiful but often harsh radiance of the Texas sky. A north-facing saw-tooth roof over the common office area, combined with glass on the perimeter offices, provide ample daylight to the interior of the building, ensuring every staff member’s desk has a connection to the outdoors. Locations and shapes of sun shade elements (a primary architectural feature of the building) were fine-tuned with extensive 3D modeling to maximize the glazing protection. Infrastructure for rainwater harvesting is also built-in, and is currently a future donor opportunity. 

Size:  New ~ 20,000 SF

Client:  Special Olympics Texas

Components:  Administrative Office Building, Multipurpose Board Room, Welcome Center, and Athletic Equipment Warehouse.

Completion Date:  2015

Services:  Full Architectural Services, Interior Design

Awards: 2016 Associate Builders & Contractors, Inc. National Eagle Award for Construction Quality. 

Photos by Brian Mihealsick