The concept of placing a building around a four-sided courtyard became the central organizing principle for the building’s design and detailing. Rationale for the courtyard configuration was three-fold. Most importantly, the site for the building was very small, so the building needed to employ a compact footprint. The courtyard form was a way to have a compact footprint, yet still provide natural daylight to both the lawyers and their large support staff. Additionally, the courtyard plan was very similar to the organization of the lawyers’ former office space in a high- rise building, with the high rise’s core taking the place of the courtyard. And, lastly, the typology of the internal courtyard has strong roots in the vernacular buildings of the southwestern United States.

In designing the building, we wanted to avoid creating a “fishbowl” courtyard, one without activity or connection to the rest of the building. We wanted to make sure that the courtyard had both activity within it and a visual connection into it from the building’s interior. In order to resolve this issue, we interrupted the building’s layout of offices, and interspersed it with narrower, low- roofed, glass circulation links. These transparent link pieces allow a layering effect—from the outside of the building, through the building, into the courtyard. The changing view of the courtyard as you walk down the hall is spatially dynamic. The courtyard is accessed through all three of the glass links and the conference room. The courtyard and courtyard arbor structure are widely used for lunch breaks, office parties, and as play area for the staffs’ children during work weekends.

The building is diagrammatically organized, with the public spaces constructed as separate buildings broken apart from the lawyers’ private offices. These public buildings are located most prominently, at the corner of the site’s two streets. Breaking down the building’s scale in this way also helps it to fit contextually within the residential neighborhood it borders. The partners’ and associates’ offices ring the exterior of the building; the central hall is open to the support staff, whose workstations face into the courtyard. Architectural details were derived from the town’s vernacular, like the large, bracketed roof overhangs that screen the intense desert sun.

Mike Worley, Managing Partner


  • Builder: Buddy Harbuck, Roswell, New Mexico
  • Structural Engineer: Smith Engineering, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Photographer: Chuck Swartz, AIA, Reader & Swartz Architects, P.C.