Houston Products Laboratory was designed in 1997 for a custom engineering and fabrication company. The site for the Products Lab is in Houston Heights, a neighborhood to the north of Downtown Houston, Texas. In response to the urban mixture found within Houston Heights, the design for the Products Laboratory builds upon the diversity of the context. Programming needs include a conference and presentation room, a products gallery, a design studio, a dark room, kitchen and bathroom area, a products archive, a fabrication shop and an assembly yard. The distribution of these functions from interior to exterior and from one level to the next is key to the way the building works.
The exterior skin organizes the space from front to back, allowing the interior programs to overlap, and interact laterally. Because the interior business goals for the Houston Products Lab require functions to overlap and interact over the life of the building, the exterior enclosure has to support these internal demands, exerted from inside and contained at the exterior. To formalize this condition, a single continuous surface, or “riboon” was used to define the spatial limits of the interior and to engage the building with the assembly yard and the street. The ribbon, made of 22-gauge galvanized aluminum, operated in one direction, wrapping front to back, top to bottom.