Engineers and architects. It can be a fickle relationship at times, stemming back to university where the typical back and forth between students arguing for their own self-importance. But, in the adult world, the relationship is seldom so tumultuous. Ken Jones, principal at Austin studio Miró Rivera Architects, was on hand to explain.

Jones said how he had been working with engineer Chuck Naeve and his firm Architectural Engineers Collaborative, since the late 1990s, not long after the architecture firm had formed. “We have been working with him almost as long as we have been a firm,” Jones noted. “It’s hard for us not to think about structure when doing a project and Naeve has the same approach—he understands the role of the architect; it’s not just about us designing the shape.”

Chinmaya Mission. (Courtesy Paul Finkel | Piston Design)

This relationship came in handy when the pair worked on the Chinmaya Mission Hindu temple in Austin. Naeve worked with the architects to strategize the impact of budget constraints and how to integrate non-structural materials. For the building’s elaborate skylight, galvanized piping (like what you would see on a chain link fence) was employed. “On the face of it, this is very mundane material, but we looked to see how it could be used structurally,” said Jones. Below the skylight, a canopy of metal panels alternating in color (though of a similar tone) comprise the roofscape. In addition to this, a stone precinct wall of limestone slabs (each was individually sponsored as part of the fundraising effort) combined, as The Architect’s Newspaper’s Ben Koush put, “pragmatism and poetry.”

(Courtesy Paul Finkel | Piston Design)

For another project in Austin, Life Works, Jones echoed Koush, pointing out how the “structural columns had a very poetic role” within the building. Jones also referenced a third project, the Vista Residence, and another dwelling involving a boat dock, which is currently under construction, due for completion this Fall. The Austin residence looks onto a river and is dominated by a boat dock, which, according to Jones, allows the “structure to be the architecture of the project and let every detail shine through.”

Austin residence with boat dock. (Courtesy Brooks Cavender)

He and Naeve will be speaking about this and the other two projects on a panel at the upcoming Facades+AM conference in Austin this July. “The Vista Residence is a really good place to demonstrate how these architect-engineer projects pan out on the field,” Jones explained, adding that the panel will look at the architect-engineer relationship in greater detail.

To find out more about the Facades+ AM Austin conference and register, visit am.facadesplus.com. Seating is limited.

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