Since 1983 when he founded his studio in Houston, Texas, Carlos Jiménez has produced a portfolio that ranges from single-family homes and cultural institutions to suburban bank branches and diesel engine distributorships. More than a practitioner, Jiménez has taught for the majority of his career and is currently a tenured professor at Rice University School of Architecture. More than an academic, he takes a clear delight in developing relationships with clients, working out the problems of a site, and building. Throughout, his work evinces a firm foundation in construction; a quiet pleasure in the experiential qualities of light and surface, volume and plane; and a quest for the sublime.
“When I think about architecture, I think a lot about desire,” Jimenez told AN. “It is not like a need, or a want, more like an aspiration, an innate desire to transform the particulars of a work, or to make architecture an essential part of people’s lives. Architecture as escapism, fantasy, or instant gratification holds little interest for me. I am interested in those ineffable qualities that architecture produces that in turn makes you desire its existence.”
Jiménez keeps his practice small by choice, employing between two and five people depending on how much work is in the office at any given time. As with his unassuming yet thoughtful designs, he does not seek to market or call attention to himself, rather allowing one project to beget the next. He also only takes on work where he feels he can fully invest himself with a client who shares his sensibilities.
“One question I often ask clients is, ‘if someone comes to your house, what would you like them to feel or remember?’ If they say they want their house to ‘wow,’ I don’t know if I might be able to work with them. I can’t do fireworks. I am interested in a delayed enjoyment of architecture, the pleasure of time, after all it is the enjoyment of time that we truly desire to build.”
L.A. De Santos Photography
De Santos Studio
This 3,600-square-foot studio is designed to meet the specific needs of a photographer. Located in a residential neighborhood not far from Houston’s Museum District, the studio is a loft-style setting for working and living. The single-slope steel frame structure includes a mezzanine with two bedrooms that faces the street and overlooks the work studio space to the north. The studio is composed of discreet yet open workspaces, including a library, kitchen, and office. The exterior is mostly CMU block covered with stucco topped by galvanized steel panels. On the interior, finishes are left exposed in places, painted in others, in a flexible, light-infused environment.
Carlos Jiménez Studio
House on Willard Street
Located next door to Jiménez’s studio, this 3,000-square-foot house responds to its neighbor’s set of corresponding spaces. The two-story building consists of a lower and upper unit, independent yet linked by a common staircase. The ground-level unit is smaller, with two bedrooms, a media room, kitchen/dining/living area. The upper unit is an open loft-like space spanning the entire length of the house. Terrazzo and wide plank oak flooring make the strongest material statement in the otherwise minimally detailed house. The trellis-like carport interlocks with the street elevation to create an integrated composition.
Hester + Hester Photographers
This 5,000-square-foot apartment is a comprehensive transformation of two adjoining units atop a 12-story residential tower built in the 1960s. The existing apartments had layouts that divided the rooms into small compartments, a condition that failed to capitalize on the far-reaching views. The design solution reconfigured the space into a loft-like environment, opening up a 180-degree panorama of the vast, verdant, and predominately horizontal Houston landscape. As required by the building covenant, the exterior character of the windows was preserved and their arched profiles were incorporated as precise viewpoints.
Crowley Theater Addition
This project is a 4,000-square-foot addition to an existing non-profit theater in Marfa Texas. The original building, a former feed store and storage warehouse, was converted into a small theater a few years ago. The Crowley Theater offers year-round cultural events such as plays, films, lectures, symposia, and concerts. The main building is noted for its billboard-like facade, layered with old, faded advertisements. The addition consists of a mono pitch steel structure that parallels the adjacent theater and railroad lines. The addition provides a public vestibule, reception and bar areas, a multi-purpose space, storage, and restrooms. Existing and new spaces share material affinities while retaining their respective patinas.
This house sits at the edge of a ravine on a ten-acre sloping site. Anchored at one end and cantilevered at the other, the single-level building arranges multiple views of the surrounding mature oak and maple trees. The 3,500-square-foot program is arranged into three distinctly oriented, yet connected sections: living/dining/kitchen, main bedroom, and a guest suite attached to a three-car garage. Small courtyards and balconies highlight unique site conditions and vistas. The primary exterior materials are dry-stacked local limestone, stucco, and weathered galvanized steel panels. Large glazed sections open the vaulted interior to the landscape.