The adaptive reuse and transformation of a historic post office into modern new offices included inspiring products for collaboration by Arden Studio—the frontier of workplace solutions
The Bob Harris Station, Federal Post Office in Pasadena, Texas held a lot of history within its walls, but was otherwise abandoned when Javier Morales, engineer and owner of J. Morales, Inc. decided to rehabilitate it.
Built on a site of incredible historical significance in Texas history, where both the Texan and Mexican armies crossed over into the concluding event of the Texas Revolution, the post office itself was a one-of-a-kind architectural mainstay. A minority and veteran-owned Texas corporation that has provided architectural, engineering, land surveying, project management, and consulting services since 1981, J. Morales Inc. made it its mission to transform the old post office into its new offices and help revitalize the neighborhood while doing so.
“The mobile panels add color and versatile function to our space!”
“The city’s made a commitment, as have we,” said Morales. “Restoring the building will hopefully serve as a harbinger of things to come.” An early investor as Pasadena’s renaissance took root, Morales recognized the city was once a booming town with every opportunity still in place—including its proximity to the Houston Shipping Channel. Rehabilitating the 3,833-square-foot space, product of a winning design by Carl F. Guenther under the Federal Works Agency, not only made economic sense but now serves as a reminder of the city’s cultural and architectural heritage. J. Morales immediately recognized the post office building's potential—with its 24”H ceilings, 9”H double-hung windows, and six limestone clad columns along the main east entry—to serve as an amazing office space. Plans to modernize the building while retaining its historical charm—including removing asbestos and lead paint (which unveiled a gorgeous maple floor they repaired and reused), while refurbishing the lobby’s original terrazzo floor—began to take shape. Concrete walls made of shells and crushed shells substituted for lime and gravel respectively—a nod to the abundance of oyster shells in the region—created a durable base that still stands strong.
To create a contemporary interior space existing alongside history and within the regal 1939 structure, the lobby still features the original terrazzo floor, painstakingly polished to its former glory, but the middle of the space now opens up to open-concept workspaces with offices and a conference room lining the perimeter. Modern, rectangular LED lights drop from the ceiling in working areas, providing a perfect contrast to the re-created, handcrafted plaster walls. Arden Studio’s multifunctional Mobl panels were positioned throughout to divide the workspaces and offer moments of privacy. J. Morales has found them to be helpful with office acoustics and excellent tools for collaboration. “They add color and versatile function to our space!” says architect Cathleen Hart of the Mobl panels, “We have high ceilings, and it is almost as if we needed something tall to appear as functional, sculptural elements—which they do—but they also gave us much-needed extra space for drawings and information.” Traditional elements, like the original brass teller windows and the vault, were repurposed, with the latter becoming a server room to host the firm’s most important drawings. Meanwhile, the bordering offices feature modern glass windows lined in black iron—a common material seen throughout the original building—creating a minimally invasive way to meld old and new. The conference room itself showcases the old post offices’ mailboxes as design features, a place where Mobl boards are often employed to demonstrate ideas to clients.
“We are so proud of our renovation of the 1939 Pasadena Post Office,” says Morales. “It allows the city to retain an important key to its past while infusing it with new life—sustainability also consists of reusing what we have. And what we have here is quite beautiful. We love seeing employees use their cutting-edge Mobl panels to keep track of projects, work together, and have the flexibility to be sitting or standing within this historical envelope.” With the Mobl panels and their new office, J. Morales Inc. created a space where its designers can create a blueprint for the next phase of their city’s future while acknowledging its past. Morales applied for designation of the building as a historic landmark.
J. Morales Architects - Engineers - Surveyors
Architecture & Interior Design
Cathleen W. Hart, AIA, LEED, AP; J. Morales, Inc.
Javier J. Morales, PE, Owner, J. Morales, Inc.
Jamie Manceaux, Stites Gorman Associates
Juliana Franco Photography