This house addition — approximately 1100 SF of new space — stretches and grows out of an existing low-slung, 1950’s ranch house in the Barton Hills neighborhood in Austin, Texas. A vertical tower of interwoven levels, the design weaves together two home offices, as well as a family living room, reading room, play loft, and roof deck for two creative tech professionals and their young child.
The slender addition stretches one-room wide up to the panoramic Greenbelt view. It takes its scale, positioning and massing from the original house while it’s envelope flexes from level to level, nesting the spaces into the surrounding trees and creating carefully-framed views.
We kept expensive cabinetry to a minimum, and instead designed a network of exposed framing and digitally-fabricated plywood shapes — work-surfaces, benches, shelves and railings – to stich the 5 vertically-staggered levels of program. With these lighter, plywood elements, we stitched the kitchen and dining of the existing house to the new living area, the living to her office, and her office to his. The levels continue up to a reading/ view space, a kids’ playroom/ sleeping loft, and finally to a rooftop deck.
Our office was asked to transform and expand a 1980’s-era attached duplex into 2 houses, or condominiums. We added 2nd-story master bedrooms to the front of the houses with new living areas below, and thus redefined the massing of the houses, their entrances, and sense of autonomy vis-a-vis each other. We played with the line between sameness and differentness of the units of this former duplex: we underscored that they are two mirror-imaging units of one larger structure, yet at moments treated the fronts of each slightly differently, imparting to each homeowner a sense of uniqueness. At the existing structure, we broke into the attic area to gain space for the lower level kitchen, exposing the original fir truss members and adding light from above. For the skin and character of the addition, we composed a composition of cladding: thin vertical brick and polygal insulated translucent wall panels. Our material choices, and approach to the treatment of the existing structure were in part born from the challenges of the developer’s limited budget.
Our client allowed us to re-envision this house — which we completed for her now 20 years ago — with new color.
Our original design was flawed with unnecessary and unresolved complexity. We painted away parts of the original design, even obscuring its presence as a house, seeing it more as an exercise in Razzle Dazzle Camouflage:the WWI practice of painting vulnerable merchant ships in bold, confusing, and scale-less color schemes to avoid recognition by German submarines and their torpedoes.
Originally the house’s colors were like a female bird’s, trying to blend herself into the landscape. Now the house is a more cheerful assemblage of colorful shapes. Shapes which contradict the original parti of the design, but also obscure and recast weaknesses and flaws in the original design.
New photos by Leonid Furmansky
Lake Travis – In Progress
We are happy to begin work on an addition/interior renovation to a house on Lake Travis by Donlyn Lyndon FAIA, co-architect of Sea Ranch with Charles Moore and William Turnbull.
We began by reimagining the outdoor space as an aviary and adding a lookout balcony or “tongue”. We are working to create an outdoor living opportunity matching the quality of the existing house and the drama of the view to the West across the lake.
For this project, our client asked us to create a 1100sf small house, or rental apartment on the back side of an existing 1940’s house near the University of Texas campus.
We elected to put the 2 private bedrooms — for the likely independent university student tenants — on the ground floor, whose entrances are accessed off of a glowingly lit stair atrium. We envisioned the atrium to be outdoors and clad large parts of it with a Poly-Gal translucent wall system. We left parts of the wall framing exposed and clad other parts in plywood, moves which underscored the indoor-outdoor feeling of the stair area.
As you move to the second-level living, and view to the beloved UT Tower, you experience interior windows, and cladding which further blur the clear distinction between what is an indoor and outdoor space. Materials are simple, exposed, durable and not too precious in most cases: fitting and lasting we hope for the tenants who live there.
Plunge Path Panel System
PPPS (Plunge Path Panel System) cabinet- using the CNC process to integrate cabinet doors, faces, appliances, and reveals with continuous wood grain.
We list this as “In Progress” because Covid has prevented us from getting photos of the finished house. We designed this 2300 sq ft Main House for a couple, and an additional 900 sq ft Accessory Building as a guest residence for their grown children or other family.
In the Main House we envisioned the upstairs bedrooms being held in a kind dirigible that drifted up and got caught in the vaulted space of the main gabled volume. We found places to grab light and pull it down where we needed it. A large, over-scaled window floods the kitchen and stair area with light and reflects the clouds and sky in kind of an ironic nod to a similar effect by office buildings, which if placed here would be terribly out of scale in this neighborhood. The Accessory Building has its own similar big window frame but half of it just frames an intimate, protected deck area off its living room.
Tom Hurt, AIA Contemporary Architecture