Via flickr by CreativeMornings Austin
Earlier this morning, the founder of The Value of Architecture, Brian Linder, led a group of enthusiastic and creative Austinites in a tour of a Harwell Hamilton Harris’ Barrow Residence near Mt. Bonnell. Among the Creative Mornings audience, which included many talented interior designers, graphic designers, filmmakers, historic preservation officers, and creative directors at advertising agencies, there was also Chris Krager, the architect and founder of KRDB, whose sleek modern designs are changing the face of East Austin, and Ben Myers, a developer whose commissioned work from Bercy Chen Studios. Brian Linder spoke with me this afternoon about his first time being a Creative Mornings host.
The Value of Architecture: So it was a good crowd this morning?
Brian Linder: It was great. I arrived at about 8 AM, and we had twenty minutes for people to walk around and check out the house. Then I launched into a discussion of Harwell’s life—his birth in Southern California, all the way up to his time studying sculpture at the Otis Art Institute, and how he ended up being blown away by architecture as a sculptural art form because of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, and how he ended up apprenticing with Richard Neutra for years until opening up his own firm.
TVOA: So you really were able to get into talking about architecture. That’s really cool.
Brian Linder: We could talk about a lot of things because there were so many accomplished and creative people there. Another thing we discussed was this really interesting dialogue happening around this time—there was some tension between the Case Study Program, which had been commissioned by Arts & Architecture magazine and was all about that International Style of pre-fabricated, sort of hard-edged, modern. The publisher of the magazine commissioned Harris to design his home in the International Style. And House Beautiful, which was promoting the Pace Setter program, a more organic architecture inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and a return to American regionalism. So, there was this big dialogue around post-war housing. At the same time, the Museum of Modern Art had introduced the International Style in the exhibition by Philip Johnson in the 1930’s. So, during this time period in the 1950’s there were opposing viewpoints, and it was Harris that bridged that gap. He had done the International Style, and then he moved to Texas to become the Dean of UT School of Architecture, and began advocating for the organic regionalism once championed by Wright. The Barrow Residence was born out of this national dialogue happening in the architectural community at the time.
TVOA: That’s great that you could get into the history.
Brian Linder: I consider myself more of an art dealer interested in the art of the real estate rather than dollars per square foot. I’m promoting the artistic value of the real estate. But of these designs, this art, does add tremendous value to the property in the marketplace.
TVOA: Was there any practical advice given to aspiring artists/designers?
Brian Linder: Yes, there was. Fortunately two of my friends came: Chris Krager of KRDB, and Ben Myers, who recently commissioned two houses for Bercy Chen Studio. They shared their tremendous knowledge about Austin history and architecture, and of course Hamilton Harris, but also about their roles as developers and how to bring design to the market and actually make money and not go bankrupt, which is actually a complicated equation. It’s very difficult to hit that sweet spot of building more expensive modern architecture, yet not doing everything you always wanted to do in architecture school, like installing the kinds of finishes that would bankrupt the project. So those guys introduced a really lively discussion.
TVOA: That’s so helpful to get first-hand advice from architecture and design entrepreneurs.
Brian Linder: It was amazing. It definitely ended up feeling like a salon where incredible people could just exchange ideas. It was a great turn out, and I would definitely do it again!
By: David Plick