Over centuries, inhabitants of the desert Southwest have developed building traditions to mediate the region’s harsh climate and provide security for their communities. Those long-proven strategies were employed in the design of the 80,000-square-foot GSA Office Building in Albuquerque, enabling the LEED Silver certified, 21st-century workplace to blend in with the timeless beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Borrowing from the region’s indigenous architecture, the designers planned the two-story office building around a central courtyard. Double-height glazing on all four sides of the courtyard introduces daylight deep into the surrounding offices, public areas, and circulation routes. The courtyard is extensively shaded by a series of cable-supported transverse wood slats that are variably spaced to provide overhead sunscreening only where necessary—along the east, west and north courtyard facades. This appropriately controlled microclimate contributes to the building’s overall energy efficiency. Trees, drought-resistant plants, and benches introduce a human scale to the courtyard and encourage daily use by building occupants.