Archives For Austin architecture

In trendy restaurants, cafés, bars, and even barbershops in major cities all over the world the industrial chic aesthetic has become commonplace. Industrial chic has become so popular, in fact, that it’s practically expected that a new brunch spot, craft cocktail bar, or the new Peruvian-fusion gastronomic experience that just opened downtown, would also come with dangling steel lights, thick rope around metal pipes, weathered oak tables, exposed brick and heating ducts, subway tile walls, and raw concrete floors. We feel comfortable in these places, amongst all the raw, exposed materials, for some reason.

Perhaps it feels warm to us—getting closer to the natural world through raw materials. And interior designers know we long for this, so in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s when American factories were dug out and made anew into residences, the Andy Warhol “loft” lifestyle was born, and also, consumers’ return to nature.

We seek out nature in our dining, so it makes sense now that the industrial chic aesthetic has entered home interiors. A current listing that embodies this urban design phenomenon beautifully is 2301 South 5th Street #25 in Austin, represented by TVOA.

Openness

We see it in open co-working spaces and “factory style” design, and now it’s here in modern homes with the open floor plan. The open floor plan of 2301 South 5th creates an open life. Not to mention the openness of the outdoor patio with panoramic views of the Austin skyline.

Materials

What separates this property from other modern homes is the absolute devotion to the most precise materials needed to create comfort. 2301 South 5th features polished concrete floors, structural steel on the banisters, white subway tiles in the bathroom, stainless steel appliances, the exposed metal vent in the kitchen. Industrial chic is all about making the materials—metal, wood, concrete, tile—work in a natural way, and this property infuses that philosophy beautifully.In an elegant twist of fate abandoned factories have created a design movement. From the influential Dia:Beacon, all the way here, to South 5th Street in Austin, Texas.

By: David Plick

The Value of Architecture is very excited to announce the Austin Modern Home Tour, which takes place on Saturday, February 25th from 10:00am – 6:00pm.

Click here and use our code TVOA2016 for $5 off advance tickets.

The Austin Modern Home Tour is a wonderful celebration of local design, fathered by the partnership between the Modern Architecture + Design Society (MA+DS) and GoodLife Luxury. After purchasing your ticket, simply bring it to any of the listed tour locations during the scheduled times, and you will receive a wristband for the remainder of the tour.

Featured in the Austin Modern Home Tour: Bercy Chen Studio LPs

In addition to the fantastic Tetra House in South Austin, the Austin Modern Home Tour will feature Bercy Chen’s highly anticipated Hill Country Modern at San Juan Drive.

Tetra House, South Austin

Hill Country Modern, Hill Country West

Much like buying local food and other products, come out and support local architecture and design. The more you give to local artisans fights the mass development of our country, and city. Local designers, like the ones on this tour, give Austin its local flavor, something that other places could never duplicate. We sincerely hope to see you there.

By: David Plick

8267996765_2ef43c308a_bThis article is for someone who just became interested in design and wants to know how to analyze architecture. Maybe you just moved to a big city, or you’re thinking about buying a modern home, or you just started dating an architect. At this point you’re probably wondering what exactly are the criteria for qualifying a building’s value? One option is to speak talkitecture and fake it. But, you’re better than that, so read this:

How to Analyze Architecture—questions to ask yourself:

What is the Building Built for?
Not all buildings should have the same shape and size. So, ask yourself, is this a residential, office, cultural (museum, library), or multi-functional building? Is it a government building (which means you’ll resent them spending your hard-earned tax dollars if it’s TOO nice)? Does the design match the purpose? How will the building be used? Does it seem useful?

Materials and Facade
What materials are they using? Glass, concrete, stone, recycled tires, shipping containers (very chic right now)? Is it clear how the choice in materials was influenced by the building’s purpose? How about the facade (aka, the exterior)? Does it seem appropriate for the building’s purpose? Does it have the client’s name in big, shiny gold letters on the side?

More on its Usefulness
If you really want to know if a building “works” or not, you should speak to someone who uses it, like the elevator operator or a tenant (in fact, it’s better if they’re not architecture aficionados because you’ll get an honest, unfiltered response—for example, if it’s a Gehry building, perhaps an architecture enthusiast would be less inclined to note its negative aspects). How does this person use the building? Are there facets of its functionality that they complain about? Like, is the bathroom in the kitchen? Do you have to go to another floor to access the bathroom? Wait—there is no bathroom?!?!? See what I’m saying.

What’s the Surrounding Area Like? Does the Building Fit In?
So, I’ll start with perhaps the exception to this conversation—some buildings are meant to be “disruptive” (did you see that duck up there?). The whole purpose of that design was to do something different. Now, whether or not you support disruptive architecture is a matter of taste, and I will not debate that here. But, you should recognize if that is the intention when you analyze the building. And if not, see if the building “fits in” or not. Now, I don’t mean that it has to be identical or even close to the design of everything else. But, on some level, it should make sense with the rest. Is it of a similar height, width, girth to he rest? A lot of architectural analysts believe that the scale of the building should match the surroundings and respect the natural environment.

Light
So, this is actually extremely important in analyzing a building. We are deeply affected by sunlight, and a building should be designed with that in mind. In fact, how an architect works with light is what separates a chump from a talent. Ask yourself, how much natural light is there projected onto and into the building? Are the windows properly positioned to let light in? What does it look like when light is projected onto it? Overall, what is the building’s relationship with light?

Human Movement
How do humans move throughout the building? On stairs? Escalators? How do they ebb and flow? Would it be easy to get lost? Do you like walking around it or does it give you vertigo?

Get Inside and Play with the Thing
Buildings, to a certain extent, are machines, and machines were meant to be used. Use the machine and see if it feels good. Remember: Mercedes isn’t the best car because of that symbol on the hood. It was the superior engine that gave the symbol its reputation.

By: David Plick

1280px-SoCoAustin is the progressive food capital of America. From the great food trucks, like Micklethwait Craft Meats and Torchy’s, to the intelligent & diverse food culture, the Tex-Mex, barbeque, fresh local produce, and farm-to-table restaurants, Austin has emerged as a gastronomic destination. So of course along with the great eats, Austin restaurant design is also cutting edge. There’s so much gorgeous design here in fact that it’s difficult to choose amongst the many design-focused and also naturally charming places (our most sincere apologies to Magnolia Café and the Bouldin Creek Café in all its wonderful quirkiness) but we broke it down to these five.

Top Five Austin Restaurant Design:

Javelina, 69 Rainey Street

Source: http://www.javelinabar.com

Source: http://www.javelinabar.com

Style: Texas Chic
Ambiance: College bar for the non-bro
Designer: Adam Young
Cuisine: Thoughtful bar food, including burgers and green chile pork cheese fries, but also a hummus plate, and grilled watermelon salad

Easy Tiger, 709 E. 6th Street

Easy Tiger no credit

Style: Industrial Modern
Ambiance: College party for thirty-somethings with good jobs.
Designer: Veronica Koltuniak
Cuisine: German pretzel shop & Parisian style bakery

Justine’s Brasserie, 4710 E. 5th St

Source: https://www.justines1937.com/photographs.php

Source: https://www.justines1937.com/photographs.php

Style: Old-timer saloon meets Montmartre cabaret.
Ambiance: Elegant, sexy dining with warm and inviting outside space.
Cuisine: Classic French.

Jeffrey’s, 1204 West Lynn Street

Source: Clayton & Little Architects

Source: Clayton & Little Architects

Style: Modern Aristocratic
Ambiance: Elegant dining that you should dress up for even though it’s Austin
Designer: Clayton & Little Architects
Cuisine: French-American fine dining

Yellow Jacket Social Club, 1704 E 5th St

Source: http://www.yellowjacketsocialclub.com/new-gallery/

Source: http://www.yellowjacketsocialclub.com/new-gallery/

Style: Rustic
Ambiance: Rockabilly
Designer: Adam Young
Cuisine: Picnic food that deserves a Michelin Star

By: David Plick

d191c2356db9d09ad54f06d75f87687c1453999514When we hear the words “real estate developer” there’s commonly a little feeling of suspicion. People, but especially inhabitants of a city with a strong sense of character, fear new things entering their environment because they know that their world is going to change, for the better or worse, and developers are the ones bringing that change. Austinites, living in the most rapidly growing city in America, all have their opinions on the new additions they like, and the ones they don’t (I, for one, have many that I can’t stomach, though I will not name them here), but there is plenty of innovative and exciting design to be proud of. Ben Myers, and the architecture firm he chooses to collaborate with, Bercy Chen, represent the best that this city has to offer in terms of development. They spare no expense, whether it be in effort or the materials used, as they are always design-focused with the goal of adding value to the property, the neighborhood, and the city. Not to mention, of course their work adds tremendous value to the lives of the buyers.

Ben Myers is an exceedingly intelligent and informed real estate developer, hence why he chooses to work with the hyper-talented team at Bercy Chen. He is also articulate, considerate, and down-to-earth. He is the kind of developer that Austin needs.

The Value of Architecture: Where did your interest in architecture and design come from?

Ben Myers: My parents. My mom is an artist, RISD trained.

The Value of Architecture: What kind of art?

Ben Myers: She’s in a lot of different mediums. Right now, she’s doing acrylic on paper. She’s done textiles and sculpture. And my dad is an urban planner, so I grew up with them always working on houses, and insisting upon living in houses that were interesting. We were never in a builder home. My parents’ last house was a 19th century California adobe ranch house in Pasadena. And I mainly grew up in a craftsman house, and they would take me to museums a lot, you know what I mean?

The Value of Architecture: You come from an engaged, artistic environment. Basically what every child should be exposed to but isn’t.

Ben Myers: Exactly. I think it’s very unfortunate that there aren’t more field trips. It’s sad kids aren’t exposed to all this.

The Value of Architecture: Did you end up studying art and design?

Ben Myers: No, actually, I studied communications, but when I was at school I was a docent at the Gamble House in Pasadena, which is operated at USC, where I went to school. I was so lucky to work basically at the most significant and best-preserved craftsman in the world, a national landmark, and Charles Henry Green’s best work.

The Value of Architecture: What’d you do after college?

Ben Myers: I moved to Palm Springs to restore a mid-century modern bungalow.

The Value of Architecture: Did you move to Palm Springs for work, or just to restore this house?

Ben Myers: Just to restore the house. That was all I was doing there.

The Value of Architecture: So you just jumped right into restoration. That’s very impressive.

Ben Myers: Thanks, then after that was finished, I came to Austin, which is where I was born.

The Value of Architecture: You were born in Austin? I didn’t know that.

Ben Myers: I was a professor’s brat, so we moved all over the place, as long as it was near a university.

The Value of Architecture: Is your mom or your dad the professor?

Ben Myers: My dad.

The Value of Architecture: What did he teach?

Ben Myers: Urban planning.

The Value of Architecture: Where does he teach?

Ben Myers: At USC. He still teaches there.

The Value of Architecture: What was the driving force to come back to Austin? Was it school?

Ben Myers: My wife and I felt that we needed to be in a place with more action. California was sort of dead at the time with the recession, and Texas was still doing really well, so we decided to evacuate back to the homeland. Retreat! Back to the homeland!

The Value of Architecture (laughing): What year was that?

Ben Myers: That was the end of 2012. And it worked out really well.

The Value of Architecture: Yeah, Austin didn’t seem to be affected by the recession. It was always booming. There was nothing but growth.

Ben Myers: Exactly. It wasn’t affected by it. It was very interesting. I think it was probably the oil boom that was happening side-by-side that everyone else was feeling.

The Value of Architecture: How’d you know about Bercy Chen?

Ben Myers: Years ago I saw the Annie House in Dwell when that was first published. That’s Thomas Bercy’s house. That was when I first noticed. Then in 2013, I saw them again when the Edgeland House was published in Dwell, and everywhere else. It was published everywhere.

The Value of Architecture: The amount of coverage they get is remarkable, and so well-deserved. So how did you get into contact with them?

Ben Myers: When I first got to Austin I did an architecture certificate program at UT just for fun. We were able to take a tour of a firm, and I signed up for the Bercy Chen one. Calvin Chen gave us a tour of their office and took us to the mixed-use development down the street that they did. So I kept them in mind, and then a year later, just rang the doorbell.

The Value of Architecture: That’s how it works, right? You ask and you shall receive.

Ben Myers: Right, right.

The Value of Architecture: So you found the San Juan site first, then came to them with it?

Ben Myers: Yes, exactly, I got the site first. Once I got the site locked down, which was the difficult part because people were writing contracts on the hoods of cars at that point—for land, especially.

Once I had that secured then I went to Bercy Chen and rang the doorbell. Dan Loe let me in.
The Value of Architecture: How did you find the San Juan site?

Ben Myers: I found it because I was looking in particular for a site where I could build more than one house. I wanted it to be in the Eanes ISD because my thought process was that the best school district is always the safest investment.
The Value of Architecture: The high school in the district is Westlake?

Ben Myers: Westlake High School, yes.
The Value of Architecture: Were you ever planning on moving into the property or it was strictly an investment to build on?

Ben Myers: I was considering moving into one of them, and the reason why I didn’t do that is because of financing regulations. I wasn’t going to be able to finance it that way. I could only finance it as both of them being Spec homes.

The Value of Architecture: Where do you live?

Ben Myers: In Allandale. East of Mopac, south of Anderson Lane, west of Burnet, and north of 2222 in that little pocket.

The Value of Architecture: How do you like that area?

Ben Myers: It’s great. I have a 1962 ranch house, pretty cool, nice little swimming pool. It’s a great neighborhood. I can walk to a lot of things, like Taco Deli and Hopdoddy.
The Value of Architecture: If you can walk to a Hopdoddy, then you have an A+ Austin life. So how was the design and creative process with Bercy Chen?

Ben Myers: It was amazing. We really share a lot of the same philosophy on the built environment. There’s an emphasis on quality, an emphasis on maximizing the space, getting the best possible use of every square foot of the house.
The Value of Architecture: Were you going back and forth with the designs?

Ben Myers: Oh yeah, often we would have a meeting, and I would take the paper from the meeting, and I would spend the weekend thinking about it. I would go to the site and look at it, think if it worked or not. That was a big part of it. We were really thinking about it from the perspective of someone living there, a family of four or a family of five, also because I thought I was living in it.
The Value of Architecture: Is that your situation? You’re a family of five?

Ben Myers: No, not yet, but we’re trying.

The Value of Architecture: Oh, good luck!

Ben Myers (laughing): Thanks! But, we were thinking that way because of the schools and everything, the type of people who want to live in this neighborhood. So we always considered what it was like to live in it, and we were also thinking of the future. That goes into every little detail. For example, in the garage we have two 40-volt outlets for electric cars, because that might be the future. Then, in all the details of the materials— the black Mexican marble in the bathrooms, the concrete floors on the ground floor, the steel on top of the stucco for the exterior. I think it’s going to be great when the steel rusts down on the stucco, and it has that weathered look. You get that in addition to the different thicknesses of the exterior, and all the different textures.

And also, we were trying to make it as comfortable as possible. I’m so excited for the rooftop deck. It’s a great outdoor space, and not enough people think to utilize the roof for that. Here, people are outside, they can see the bluffs across the lake. In the courtyards below, there are these carved out voids from a solid block, which looks great from the exterior but is also a serene way to live. There’s a wet room in the master bath with water repellent Tadelakt plaster; it’s a Moroccan plaster used in palaces. And, if people have company over, of course you need to have a coat closet—all those details. Details that people don’t necessarily get with a builder home.

The Value of Architecture: You always have to think about it as if you’re living in it. Say to yourself, “What would I want?”

Ben Myers: Yeah, exactly. You have to imagine being in it. Think about it in a real world way. Be honest with yourself about what would be helpful, what would be best. That’s what we tried to do.

By: David Plick

7cb90ccb37f3b694123155c4e2d48de81470411634If we started to list Bercy Chen Studio’s accomplishments, this piece would turn into a book, and let’s face it, internet attention spans don’t go beyond fifteen minutes tops. But I will say that they’ve been honored all over the world, by some of architecture’s most prized institutions, from Architizer, and World Architecture News, to the AIA. They’ve lectured at UTSOA, Texas A&M, the National Building Museum, and have exhibited work at the GA Gallery in Tokyo, the Seoul Design Olympiad in South Korea, and Art Basel. In fact, in viewing their accomplishments and portfolio you would think you were reading about a firm that’s been around for decades, but it was actually only began in 2001, and they’ve only begun to expand, announcing recently the opening up their second office in Monterrey, Mexico.

Bercy Chen’s work is sleek, modern, evocative and thoughtful, yet it’s difficult to precisely put into a category. It’s not exactly postmodern, but can have postmodern qualities; minimal, but not self-consciously minimal (yet it doesn’t typically do more than it needs and the form always is functional). In fact, their work has this universal, global appeal, which is probably achieved due to their founders, Thomas Bercy and Calvin Chen, coming from Belgium and Taiwan. Their work is global because this is a global firm, bringing experience that spans all continents, bringing skills from all architectural disciplines.

About two years ago, Bercy Chen teamed with the talented developer Ben Myers to build the San Juan Homes in Austin’s Hill Country. Dan Loe, the project architect for the San Juan Homes, took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about working at Bercy Chen, the process of designing and building the project, and collaborating with the client, Ben Myers.

The Value of Architecture: How long have you worked at Bercy Chen?

Dan Loe: I’ve been there since February 2007, so coming up on ten years. I started while I was still in college working part-time and kept working for them once I got out of school.

TVOA: What kinds of stuff have you learned about design and construction processes?

Dan Loe: It’s a firm that’s always very inquisitive. We do spend time on research and development, on different materials. There was one point where we did some mockups to make our own material, like the translucent concrete. That’s something we were really excited about. I experimented and did a little bit of that on my own.

As far as construction processes, part of the reason why these guys got into it was because back in 2000, there really wasn’t the kind of builders that were willing to do the kind of details they were doing at the time—very sleek, very modern, steel and glass. The cost of it was so prohibitive because nobody had really done anything like that before. These guys took it on as a means to not get their ideas taken out of the process, as a way to stay in control of the projects. It’s taught me just roll up your sleeves and do it.

TVOA: A great thing about Bercy Chen is the wide range of projects you guys get—cultural, commercial, and residential. What do you prefer working on?

Dan Loe: I prefer doing the single-family residential homes the best, and those are typically the ones we build too—about 60-70% of the projects. Typically how it works is I’ll sit down with the client on the first day along with Thomas and Calvin, and I’ll stick with the project the whole way through. I’ll be the project manager throughout construction, all the way up to handing the keys over to him on the last day, saying, “Here, it’s yours.” I love being able to see the project the whole way through. It’s the polar opposite of what I doing when I was working in New York, working on plans for a high-rise in Moscow. I never went to Moscow. I never got to see the site. Never saw anything, but I was just cranking out drawings. Here, it’s night and day from what that experience was.

TVOA: This sounds so much more human, developing something more organically.

Dan Loe: It’s very tactile—on-site working out the details. No matter how much time you spend on the design side there’s always going to be these elements that pop up during construction that you have to resolve. You have to figure out how the steel is going to meet the wood. It’s this constant process of analyzing and reassessing, and coming up with solutions. And sometimes those are really the best.

At the San Juan project we had an HVAC duct that was drawn and modeled, but once we were on site we thought there was a better way to do it. We played around with it a little bit, rerouted the duct. It really turned out to be one of my favorite spots in the whole thing. We made a little sitting bench over top of the duct, so it could run along the floor, blow out air into the living space. And then the end of the bench turned into a little seated desk area. That’s something that we would’ve never thought of if we just handed the design over to someone. There are moments of serendipity that just happen as a result of being intimately aware of the project.

TVOA: How long have you been working on the San Juan project?

Dan Loe: About two years now. I think we had about six months of design, then started construction. And we’re set to wrap up in December.

TVOA: What was the process like of choosing the materials? How did the site affect that process?

Dan Loe: When we first saw the site there were thick woods, completely covered in cedar trees that just never had been taken care of. So part of the process was cutting out these invasive, scrub cedar trees, and we kept the oaks. After that the site looked huge, and the view of the canyon across the river opened up.

For inspiration, a lot of the material selection was inspired by the southwest because the client, Ben Myers, coming from southern California, had lived in an adobe house. For example, in the bottom of each of these houses, what we wanted to achieve was the perception that these walls were massive and very thick, like an adobe wall. The windows are recessed in one to two feet, so every time you see that you get this sense that it’s this massive solid block. And the counterpoint of that would be how the top part of each house was handled. There we wanted to push the windows to the very edge and create this feeling of tautness, like a skin, a delicate veneer at some level, so we wanted to push the walls all the way to the corners, all the way to the edges, and create this delicacy, something that’s going to sit on top of it, and be the counterpoint to the volume that’s going to sit on the ground floor.

In addition to the southwest, we were also inspired by the Mexican sculptor, Jorge Yazpik, who works in these very angular blocks, pretty simple forms, and then he carves this void out of them, creating these interesting geometric forms as a result of starting with something very simple. That was a huge influential part of this project. For example, we used a solid block, a rectilinear block, as the base, and then we would carve out a series of courtyards. These spaces would be little courts that would be sheltered from the sun. When we’re done we’ll plant Japanese Maple, or it could be a Zen garden, or be more lush, more vegetative. Each one of these courtyards depending on their orientation will take on a unique personality.

TVOA: It’s amazing having so much outdoor space.

Dan Loe: Absolutely. In addition to the gardens, there’s the outdoor deck above the kitchen. Soon they’re going to be screened in, with perforated panels all around, and that’ll also add a nice quality of both shade, but also views of the canyon and beyond.

TVOA: How was it working with Ben?

Dan Loe: Great—Ben is probably the most design-informed client we’ve ever had. His knowledge of mid-century modern architecture is second to none. He and Brian can talk for hours and hours about their favorite mid-century modern furniture photographer. So, it was a really fantastic relationship. We’d meet with Ben every couple weeks. Initially we came up with a couple concepts with him, and he has a strong sense of what works for him and what doesn’t. He was great to work with, and continues to be.

TVOA: So you guys will continue to work together?

Dan Loe: He’s coming in a couple weeks to talk about a new project.

TVOA: It’s amzing. Everyone’s converging in Austin it seems. You’re from Minnesota and Ben’s from California, and you’re coming together to change the landscape of Texas.

Dan Loe: The thing I noticed here is that Austin doesn’t aspire to be Los Angeles, or New York—certainly doesn’t aspire to be Houston, Dallas, or San Antonio. It’s just got this confidence of: it is what it is.

By: David Plick

LBJ_Library_and_Museum_front_view_with_fountain

LBJ: Gordon?

Gordon Bunshaft: Yes?

LBJ: Lyndon Johnson.

Bunshaft: Oh, yes, Mr. President. How are you?

LBJ: I hope I’m not interrupting your dinner or something.

Bunshaft: Oh, no, no.  I—we finished some time ago.

LBJ: Gordon, we—I just learned tonight, our folks have been out looking at these libraries and is there no way in the world that we could reconstitute as nearly as possible in the President’s office at the Library the President’s office here?

Bunshaft: Well, we hadn’t thought of it, but it’s possible—

LBJ: I hate to build me a little one out there at the side and say, this is the way the President’s office looked. And here’s his desk and here’s his chair. Here’s his FDR picture. Here’s his—where all these people sat. Now, that is the most attractive thing, they tell me, to the people who go and hear it, is Truman discussing where he sat in this office.

Bunshaft: Yes.

LBJ: And—

Bunshaft: [talking over each other] I didn’t know that the Tru—in Kansas of Mr. Truman—President Truman—

LBJ: Lady Bird said we—well, we have a trouble—she says it just ought to be, we just should have thought of it, we just played hell not doing it. And now we got a bunch of can’t-do philosophy. She says that the ceiling’s not high enough—well maybe we don’t have to have the same height ceiling but maybe—and maybe we can’t have the same oval room, maybe it—we’ve got different dimensions.  But it seems to me that if we could, we ought to take this rug out of here and this—just as the Kennedy’s are doing and have done, just as the Trumans did—and ought to take the desk and ought to take the chairs, and we ought to say—you see, very—relatively few people come through the President’s office here.

Bunshaft: Yes.

LBJ: But all of them want to see where the President worked, just as much as they want to see where the President was born, when they come to our little house. That’s one of the basic things, and it’s going to be remembered and impress it on them a lot more than some book up in a shelf.

Bunshaft: Yeah.

LBJ: And if we could, I just—that’s the one thing I want.  I’d like to have as near a reproduction as finances and architectural requirements would permit.  I don’t say it’s got to be 18 feet high or 14, or it’s got to be 38 feet long.

Bunshaft: Well—

LBJ: We might have a little card on the door and say this is not an exact reproduction, or something, but I’d like for it to be such that, say—where they get an impression that here’s where the President worked, because they all want to see that. They all want to—that’s what they come to see.

Bunshaft: Yes.  Well, Mr. President, we’ll get the dimensions and we’ll try several locations—maybe there’s more than on—and it would be nice, if we could do it, to do it exactly, because I think the quality of that room is the total thing.  And it may be possible to do it.

People from the northeast have a long history of perverting Texas with their wicked ideas, and Gordon Bunshaft is one of its most profound examples, as his idea—the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum—will stand the test of time. Bunshaft, who was born in Buffalo, educated and trained at MIT, and made his career in the New York City super-firm Skiddings, Owing, and Merill, designed unarguably the most important piece of Austin architecture. He had a reputation of being a tough and crude man who spoke his mind, and was known for long silences where he would search for the right solution to a problem. He was someone who could lead an artistic movement because not only did he believe in what he said, he would stop at nothing to make you agree with him, and he shut out those who didn’t.

He was so outspoken, in fact, that he didn’t hesitate to disagree with LBJ. In a famous letter he sent to the president, he said, “The only sour note in your library, it seems to me, is the Political Campaign Exhibit [which] seems to have been done without the slightest sense of design or regard for the space or walls … It all looks like a poor trade show.”

Bunshaft was a terse and difficult man. He never lectured or taught, or liked to share his ideas with people. He didn’t leave behind drawings or a legacy for us to learn from. Even his house on Long Island was destroyed after Martha Stewart sold it to the textile business owner, Donald Maraham, who thought it was ugly.

Bunshaft’s design of the LBJ Presidential Library & Museum is a minimal monolith—a work clearly dedicated to modernism, yet with an intention to give homage to an earnest president. It is, with its sleek design, a very serious work of architecture, creating a somber, contemplative feeling, yet also with inviting balconies to take in views of the city and a majestic ceremonial staircase inside. This Austin architecture landmark houses 45 million pages of historical documents, including the papers of President Johnson and those of his close associates and others. As per LBJ’s request, referenced in the phone call to Bunshaft at the beginning of this article, the top floor of the library has a 7/8 scale replica of President Johnson’s Oval Office.

Ada Louise Huxtable, in her review in The New York Times of this great piece of Austin architecture, said, “Architecture as art and symbol is one of civilization’s oldest games, and Mr. Bunshaft is one of its most dedicated players.”

By: David Plick

summer-sun-blue-sky-palmI will always remember the first day I moved to Austin: June 20th, 2012. The temperature was 116 degrees. I walked (yes, walked!) around the city all week, and it was always sunny, and I don’t recall ever seeing a single cloud. I was looking for an apartment, and people drove by staring at me—shocked, appalled, like I had a hostage with me. I don’t think I have ever been so hot and dehydrated in my life.

But that’s Austin summer—hot! Some regions in this country have their wet and dank, unbearable humidity, but in Austin it’s just sun, and there’s a lot of it.

Today is June 10th, and another Austin summer is upon us. Of course, we’ll all cool off at Barton Springs and our pools (or our friends’ pools . . . ?), but there are also design choices in Austin architecture that can mitigate the brutal, and sometimes punishing Texas sun.

Shade

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It blocks the sun from the windows, but you can also make unique finishes with it and add design value to your home.

Go Adobe

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It keeps the home cool. It’s sleek and minimal. It’s the southwest and adds regional ambiance.

Add Plantlife

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Plants make us happier and make designs more natural (I mean, it worked pretty well for Roche’s Ford Foundation Building); plus, they block the sun by absorbing its rays, as opposed to them heating the earth that the house sits on.

Make It Bigger

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If the house has thick concrete and masonry, it’ll absorb the heat before it gets to your living space.

It’s fascinating to observe a region’s environment affect its design choices. Because, whether we like it all the time or not, we must co-exist and work with our natural world.

Any other climate sensitive Austin architecture and design ideas? Please write us and let us know!

By: David Plick

4f06c4eafe0c60b5fa7f5a0929cdf0771460563062The greatest joy, perhaps, in working at The Value of Architecture is the feeling that we are a part of American history; that we are promoting and collaborating with some of America’s greatest artists. These architects are the unsung heroes of our city streets. They built this country into what it is today, and leave their mark for us to remember them by living in and around their dreams. Harwell Hamilton Harris, and his enormous contributions to Austin Mid-Century Modernism, but also throughout the entire country, is a prime example of that. It’s an honor and a privilege to be selling his designs, such as the Barrow Residence at 4101 Edgemont, because we get the opportunity to remember this man, who devoted his whole life to making American lives more progressive, efficient, and sustainable.

Harwell Hamilton Harris came to Austin in 1951 when he was hired to be the first Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas. It was here that he assembled a group of architect pioneers, ironically nicknamed the “Texas Rangers,” because they were actually not employing Texas traditions, but rather, Bauhausian European minimalism. Among these famous architects were John Hejduk (John Hedjuk Towers in Galicia, Spain) and Werner Seligmann (Willard State Hospital in upstate New York) among many other critical theorists and important architectural thinkers of the 20th century. Prior to that, Harris apprenticed under Richard Neutra, and worked in Southern California, developing a system of design that employed modernist principles alongside a belief in careful materials selection. This is how progressive Harris was—these ideas of sustainability, the use of local materials, the fact that the materials used had to be site-specific—were all being implemented by Harris decades before it became popular. He paved the way for today’s architects in so many ways.

Austin Mid-Century Modernism was born when Harris stepped foot on the UT-Austin campus. This is why his archives are at UT, and why TVOA is so excited to be engaging with the Austin architectural community about a man whose contributions live on. When we invite you to the open house don’t think of it as simply an investment opportunity, or a chance to buy a dream home. It is that, but it’s also a way to learn about the architectural history of this great city.

By: David Plick

heymann_beautifulTo truly love Austin means to give to its culture, and not simply take from its advantages. It means not blindly supporting expansion, especially given its mindlessness at times—for more opportunity, more money, and growth for growth’s sake—but rather, the thoughtful and conscientious expansion that would benefit all Austinites regardless of their economic distinction. This purer love, of humanity, of art and its relationship to urbanization and a city’s occupants, and of course architecture, is at the heart of University of Texas Professor in Architecture David Heymann’s short-story collection, My Beautiful City Austin (John M Hardy Publishing Company, 2014).

In the book, which consists of seven sometimes absurd, yet painfully real short stories told by a protagonist/architect named David, the narrator recounts different experiences with various dimwitted clients around Austin. The thought process and decisions of his clients always baffle him, perhaps most notably an elderly couple whose main goal is to build a home that will entice their grandchildren to visit, so they essentially try to model it after a theme park. For anyone who knows Austin, the landmarks will hit home and these stories will resonate with that “I’ve always thought this, but didn’t know how to put it into words” feeling. You will read it with a smile on your face, shaking your head in equal parts befuddlement and identification.

As acerbic as this book is, Heymann clearly loves this city that he calls home. The way he describes landmarks such as Barton Springs and Lake Travis, and this city’s quirky residents, it’s clear that he has a sincere admiration for Austin, and seeks only a gentler, more sustainable future. This book is a charming and funny warning sign that Austin’s future is up for grabs, and it’s up to us to push it in the right direction.

By: David Plick