McKinney York Architects


McGarrah Jessee

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The Story of the McGarrah Jessee Building

Built-in 1953, The American National Bank was an iconic mid-century modern building in downtown Austin that had fallen into disrepair. In 2009, it was listed by Preservation Texas as one of the state’s most endangered places.

  • With Florence Knoll interiors, a Seymour Fogel mural, and the first escalators in town, The American National Bank Building was an icon of mid-century modern architecture in downtown Austin.

  • After the bank failed in the 90’s, the building was purchased by the State of Texas, and it entered a dark period in its history.

  • In 2010, the building was saved from potential demolition, and restored to a condition and purpose befitting its heritage.

“The McGarrah Jesse Building, The Birth and Re-birth of an Architectural Gem”

-Video by McGarrah Jessee

The building was recognized in 2011 by AIA Austin, who awarded it a Citation of Honor.

“[The atrium] once again becomes the central heart of this building, which is the way it was conceived. Unearth that, Take the best of the building, and make it the best of the building again.”

-Anne Fougeron, FAIA

The American National Bank Building was an iconic mid-century building in downtown Austin that was vacated and in danger of being lost. Now the McGarrah Jessee Building, the exterior was renovated and McGarrah Jessee, an award-winning branding agency, was placed as the building’s primary occupant. The main goal was to capture the free-wheeling personality of the agency while respecting the original modern architecture and Knoll interiors. The design unfolds elegantly at the atrium of the piano nobile, which is rimmed with Knoll workstations and peels back to reveal a more raw space at the perimeter beyond. The interiors repurpose many items, including grates from the basement parking, plate glass, teak paneling, and marble slabs to finish off exposed columns. New openings were also punched on the western façade to provide a welcoming exterior and allow balanced interior lighting.

Recognition: Citation of Honor, AIA Austin, 2011; Merit Award, Heritage Society of Austin, 2011; Design Award, Texas Society of Architects, 2012; Honor Award, Preservation Texas, 2012; Workplace Award, Architect (Magazine), 2012; Commercial Real Estate Awards – Office Rehab Winner, Austin Business Journal, 2013

Publication: Apartment Therapy, Dec 2010; Architect, Dec 2012; Architect, Jan 2013; Austin 360, Dec 2010; Austin American-Statesman, June 2009; Austin American-Statesman, July 2013; Austin Business Journal, June 2009; Austin Business Journal, Nov 2010; Austin Business Journal, Feb 2013; Austin Monthly Home, 2011, Texas Architect, Mar/Apr 2011;Texas Architect, Sep/Oct 2012