Posts tagged with "Austin":

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New Dean Michelle Addington talks about her vision for UT Austin School of Architecture

This summer the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSoA) will be the latest school in recent years to appoint new leadership, welcoming Professor Michelle Addington of Yale University as its new dean. Addington will succeed Interim Dean Elizabeth Danze, who took the helm of the institution last year after the abrupt departure of Frederick Steiner. According to Maurie McInnis, the executive vice president and provost at UT Austin, “Michelle is a perfect fit.” She added that Professor Addington “brings fresh eyes and new ideas that will continue supporting the robust breadth and depth of interdisciplinary work happening at the school, and she will lead conversations that advance the field in the 21st century." The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke with Addington last week about her vision for UTSoA, emerging issues for designers in the built environment, and her eagerness to be walking distance from Franklin’s Barbecue. AN: What initially interested you about UTSoA as an institution? Michelle Addington: I wanted this position for a very long time. I always kept my eye on different deanships and interviewed off and on over the years, but none of them felt right to me. When this became available, I knew it was one I really wanted. Part of it has to do with the fact that I come from a Texas family and there is a sense of home. My mother is from Austin, so it is a part of the country that really resonates with me. Another part of it has to do with the fact that [UTSoA] has such a storied legacy in the development of contemporary design education. One can look to the Texas Rangers... [they] were an incredibly formative part of architectural education. And, the fact that the full range of design disciplines are represented, everything from architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, urban design, community and regional planning, sustainable design, and historic preservation. And a robust combination of degrees from undergraduate to PhD. I feel that it's a place that is right for me as an individual but also a place where I feel as though I can bring my experience to the existing faculty and students and build on their strengths. In the last few years, the school has attracted significant funding and progressive initiatives. Examples include the U.S. DOT Transit Research Grant, a new faculty position for the study of Race and Gender, and a high-tech Robotics Lab, to name a few. Though these are early days, can you talk a little about these initiatives and the direction you see the school going under your leadership? If you think about the field of architecture writ large—about all of the design disciplines—they were heavily product-centric for centuries. The digital turn at the end of the 20th century brought forward methods that enable us to deal with multiple contexts, multiple terrains, and different kinds of content. We became incredible masters at manipulating this varied terrain but mostly in terms of dealing with what I consider to be ‘contested boundaries.’ It’s easy to think about a building as being bounded by its site and envelope. But when you start to look at [architecture] as an insertion for instance in ecological, economic, spatial, political boundaries, [it] can accurately map and open up questions that I don't think any other discipline can do. All of these initiatives—the DOT, the Robotics Lab, the program dealing with gender and racial diversity—are looking to insert [designers] into the center of questions that heretofore have been addressed by other disciplines. I think the University of Texas has been on the mark in recognizing what we need to do [in this respect] and it is one of the reasons I'm so excited to be there. One of the things that I spoke to the [UTSoA] faculty about was that I see interdisciplinarity differently than I think many traditional schools of architecture have seen it. All too often we think about how we fold in content from other disciplines—that is not interdisciplinarity to me. That's cherry picking information to support what it is one wants to do. Real interdisciplinarity actually means that you have to be involved in, understand, and affect the 'other'—other frameworks and conflicting points of view. And, you have to de-center yourself in order to do that. You are making some news as the first woman to be named dean of UTSoA, succeeding Elizabeth Danze as Interim Dean. Your credentials I think speak for themselves but do you perhaps have any thoughts about the increasing prominence of women in leadership positions at architecture schools? And in the profession? I have to correct that because Elizabeth Danze is the first woman dean [of UTSoA]. She may be interim but she is the trailblazer here. She is one of my favorite people. There are many ways that practice leads academia in terms of its reflection of the world at large. However, this is a case where practice is lagging. It's going to take some time. I think one of the things that would be interesting to talk about with a larger number of women in the field... is this idea of the ‘other.’ [Women] are used to being on the margins, away from the center, practicing on the edges. A number of years ago there was a book put together by Lance Hosey and Kira Gould called Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design. They had noticed there was a disproportionate number of women who were working in sustainable design. You are going to find this for a lot of interdisciplinary areas that are on the edge. I think that as we start looking, again, at this negotiated terrain that is not so centered on the building object, we are going to find and recognize a lot more parity from a gender standpoint. There might be some pendulum swinging for a while because we have big problems to deal with in this world. All I can wait for is the day when it doesn't even occur to someone to say ‘woman architect’ but simply ‘architect.’ I want that term to disappear from our [discourse]. As a public institution, UT Austin operates quite differently than a private school like Yale, where you currently teach. Recently, we have seen several controversial policies emerge in Texas such as Senate Bill 6 (the so-called “bathroom bill”) and the open carry law which went into effect last summer. With these in mind, how do you see architecture schools engaging with similar issues of public space and more broadly how does this translate into practice? I can't say yet how it translates into practice. But what I can say is these issues are another reason why I want to be at [UTSoA]. I want to come precisely because these debates are on the table. It is very easy to be critical of how others are thinking about particular situations, but part of understanding and embracing the 'other' is that you have to fully embrace it. You have to engage yourself in that discourse no matter what you believe for yourself. We are in a really messy world. We are not going to be able to come up with solutions by bracketing ourselves and narrowing our domains or territories so that we are only surrounded with like-minded individuals. I am most interested in figuring out how we negotiate these radically different voices. How we map progress that accepts these differences yet at the same time protects the most vulnerable. In design disciplines, we have an enormous responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of society at large which means we have to tackle these issues head on. What we really need to do is figure out how to engage. On a lighter note, you will begin your post on July 1st of this year; and, as you well-know having attended Tulane, the south has an unforgiving summer heat. Weather aside, though, what are you looking forward to most about relocating to Austin?  Well, my grandparents lived outside of Dallas and I used to spend my summers at their unairconditioned ranch. I've never forgotten that. Number one, though, is BBQ. No matter what you try in the north nobody can make decent BBQ and I'm tired of my friends from New England constantly dragging me to places where they claim that it's the best BBQ—no. And driving, I shouldn't say this because I'm a sustainability person, but I miss a good road trip. I've never been to Marfa, that's so high on my list.
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150-year-old New York bar finds a new home in Austin, Texas

The 150-year-old Cedar Tavern bar in New York City once hosted luminaries such as Jackson Pollack, Willem De Kooning, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix in Greenwich Village. Now that very same bar lives on at Eberly, South Austin’s new restaurant. When the Cedar Tavern closed in 2006, Eberly partners John Scott and Eddy Patterson bought the nearly 12-foot-tall and 40-foot-long mahogany bar, took some photographs of it, and transferred it in hundred of pieces to a storage unit back in Austin. Then, they set about finding an appropriate home for their haul, landing on a former 15,000-square-foot print shop on South Lamar Boulevard. ICON Design + Build worked with Clayton & Little Architects and interior designer Mickie Spencer to incorporate the Cedar Tavern Bar into a series of spaces including a dining room, coffee shop, and 4,000-square-foot rooftop patio. ICON’s Jonas Durfor, a master carpenter, reconstructed the bar. Reused materials permeate the space, whose prefabricated construction allowed for design interventions without compromising the original components—vintage cotton gin windows were interspersed throughout the interior spaces to allow light in, while the original building’s concrete floor tiles were reused in the patio. Despite a design inspired by an eclectic mix of art nouveau, Victorian, midcentury modern, and British greenhouses from the 1800s, the space is tied together with its color scheme: blues, greens, brass, and mahogany. Each room is coordinated to allow patrons to spend their entire day at the Eberly, from coffee in the study, to drinks on the bar or in the patio, to a meal in the dining room.

Eberly 615 South Lamar Boulevard Austin, Texas Tel: 512-916-9000 Architect: ICON Design + Build and Clayton & Little Architects

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Michelle Addington named dean at University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture has just announced the selection of a new dean: Professor Michelle Addington of Yale University. At Yale, Addington is the Hines Professor of Sustainable Development and she holds a joint appointment in Forestry and Environmental Studies and Architecture. The university hopes she will bring an "interdisciplinary perspective" to her new position. Here is the full announcement from the university:
Dear UT community, I am excited to announce that Michelle Addington will serve as the next dean of the School of Architecture effective July 1, 2017. Michelle comes to us from Yale University where she holds joint appointments in the School of Architecture as well as the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Educated as an architect and engineer, she brings an impressive array of experience and expertise, both in academia and applied practice. Over the past 20 years she has dedicated herself to education as a teacher, mentor, and leader at Yale and Harvard. Earlier in her career she worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and at DuPont as an engineer and manager. The interdisciplinary perspective she brings will be a tremendous asset to the school and university, and I am thrilled that she has agreed to lead one of the top architecture programs in the country. Michelle holds undergraduate degrees from Tulane University and Temple University, and master and doctorate degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her teaching and research focuses on sustainable energy systems, advanced materials, and new technologies. In 2009, Architect Magazine recognized her as one of the top ten architecture faculty in the nation. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Elizabeth Danze. As interim dean, I could not have asked for a more effective leader and partner throughout this process. She is highly respected by her colleagues and the campus community and has led the school with distinction this year. Please join me in thanking Elizabeth for her leadership and service. Michelle is an exciting addition to the Longhorn community. Please join me in welcoming her to UT. Sincerely, Maurie McInnis Executive Vice President and Provost The University of Texas at Austin
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1940s Texas gas station gets retro rebirth as new Megabus stop

Tim Derrington, founder of Derrington Building Studio in Austin, Texas, opened his firm during the recession when he found it was easier to find clients than jobs. He said his studio’s work is modern in concept, but more regional vernacular in aesthetic and style, always playing off the context. That rings particularly true in Derrington's most recent project, the adaptive reuse of a small gas station into a Megabus station. “Everybody has driven by or seen that building,” said Derrington. “It’s prominent and it’s background at the same time.” (It’s located a few blocks from the University of Texas and the state capital.) Built in 1941, it was originally a Conoco station that maintained much of its original character through the years. Derrington said that altering the building’s original exterior was out of the question; instead they would clean it up and celebrate its character. He felt it was important not to paint the building a bright color and insisted that the color white would accentuate the form and textures of the original structure. Luckily, Megabus agreed and the company's bright gold and blue scheme became accents that played off the structure’s more retro elements. The blue, in particular, Derrington said, connects the building to its context by playing off the big blue Texas sky. “It almost painted itself,” he added. Preserving the original tile work on the exterior was also deemed non-negotiable. “The building owner’s wife fell in love with the tile and it was mandated that ‘thou shall not touch the tile,’” Derrington explained. “Nobody wanted to anyway, it’s just a neat little feature.” The tile already matched the new color scheme, so it was easy to incorporate. Of the many retro features the studio kept, he said the Jetsons-like rings around the tops of the columns were one of the more iconic elements that spoke to the building’s roots. Although the quirky features like that give the building a lot of character, Derrington added that his favorite elements are the panoramic steel windows on the back façade. In order to keep the original windows, years of paint needed to be excised. “There were guys out there scraping for days,” he said. On the interior, the team removed everything, scraping all of the paint and finishes down to the original walls. They also added bathrooms and a kiosk for the waiting patrons; Kimberly Bruce of Designs and Details Interiors LLC designed the interior, including the selection of all the interior finishes. Derrington also credited Joey Chioco of Chioco Development, Inc. as general contractor on the project. Since its completion, the building has received a lot of attention from the community. “So many people were appreciative of the fact that we maintained the original character,” said Derrington. “It made me realize that this is a special building and it should be shared.” In the end, he said his studio was proud it could bring a diamond out of the rough. “The idea was to make this into something that is a desirable place, a nice place, to be so that bus travel no longer has this stigma,” Derrington said. Now that the station is complete, the studio is moving on with several other projects in Austin, including a few homes, a school, and an extension to a rock-climbing gym they designed.
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SXSW announces inaugural art program installations

Austin, Texas–based South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals has announced five art installations to be exhibited in its inaugural SXSW Art Program in 2017. This year’s festivities will take place March 10 through March 19 in Austin. The installations will include work by both established and emerging artists, including Raum Industries, Refik Anadol, and Circus Family. In a press release announcing the featured artists, Hugh Forrest, chief programming officer at SXSW said, "Art and Design [have] always been central to the SXSW ethos, and we have quickly become a recognized platform for visual artists to showcase art installations and connect with filmmakers, musicians, and technologists. The Art Program is the first time we have formalized the program and sought leading artists to design specific installations that we know will resonate with SXSW audiences." The 2017 slate of featured artists was selected as part of a collaboration between the SXSW Art Team and an external advisory board made up at least partially by art curators. See below for the 2017 SXSW art program’s selected artists.
  • Hyphen-Labs (Ashley Baccus-Clark, Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Ece Tankal, and Nitzan Bartov) will showcase their NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism NSAF Not Safe as Fuck art piece. The work is described in a press release as “a transmedia exploration told through a multi-layered possible future that transcends the constraints of the present using a roster of products thematically rooted in security, protection, and visibility.” The group is helmed by four women of color who, through their artwork, seek to use virtual reality to insert viewers into a “‘neurocosmetology lab’ where black women are the pioneers of brain optimization.”
  • Los Angeles-based installation artist Refik Anadol will showcase an artwork called Infinity that consists of an immersive environment that translates the viewer’s perception of reality into a “three-dimensional space of visualization.” Anadol’s work also includes large-scale LED installations, including the artist’s Convergence installation for the Gensler-designed Metropolis project currently under construction in Downtown Los Angeles. 
  • Artists Raum Industries will exhibit their interactive light exhibition Optic Obscura at SXSW this year. That artwork translates inputs from a user interface into a gridded surface made up of hundreds of optical fibers. The resulting pixelated image is used to illuminate the installation and its surroundings. 
  • Artists Circus Family’s work TRIPH creates an immersive “light experience” that is generated by the physical proximity of viewers. Sensors on the artwork translate nearby movement into sound and colors of varying intensities. 
  • Akinori Goto strikes a similar chord through their toki - series #02 work, an installation that depicts time in relation to the movement of a dancer. The dancer’s rhythms are projected onto a 3-D printed mesh sculpture.
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No two projects from Austin-based Miró Rivera Architects look alike

As Austin has become the hippest city in Texas (to the excitement of millennials everywhere), its architectural scene has also become the liveliest, with Miró Rivera Architects, the Texas Society of Architects architecture firm of the year for 2016, as one of its shining stars. The practice began when Juan Miró—born in Barcelona and educated in Madrid—was working for New York City firm Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects, and was dispatched to Austin to oversee construction of an opulent villa commissioned by personal computer magnate Michael Dell. When the Dell House was completed in 1997, Miró realized he preferred the sunny Hill Country—with its passably Mediterranean climate—to Manhattan. Much like another émigré, the Viennese architect, Rudolf Schindler, who was sent to Los Angeles in 1920 by his boss, Frank Lloyd Wright, to keep tabs on a then-under-construction mansion for oil-heiress Aline Barnsdall, Miró decided to go out on his own afterward using the connections from the Dell House to get commissions (and crucially at first, also to get a steady teaching gig at the UT School of Architecture). Three years later, he was able to coax his Puertorriqueño brother-in-law, and fellow Gwathmey Siegel alum, architect Miguel Rivera, to join him and the firm was officially established in 2000.

As would be expected from a firm begun by transplants with such sophisticated pedigrees, the approach is decidedly cosmopolitan. This contrasts in an interesting way with the typical emphasis on formal regionalism espoused by the best-known modern architects in Texas, like O’Neil Ford and his spiritual descendants, Lake|Flato. These regionalists take inspiration from pre-industrial, rural buildings and tend to use specific local materials like limestone and brick. Miró Rivera’s projects, with their markedly varied, but always starkly modern appearances, appear almost to be the work of multiple firms, much like the multi-faceted Eero Saarinen. According to Rivera, the firm seeks to create an architectural vocabulary or iconography drawing from a variety of sources specific to the requirements of each commission. In this way, each project gets its own identity, but through the same analytic process, and through this dialectical exercise, the local becomes cosmopolitan.

Chinmaya Mission Austin, Texas

An educational center and worship space for a Hindu spiritual organization is an unusual program for central Texas—not known for accommodating a large South Asian immigrant population. Although strict budget constraints precluded the traditional stone temple the clients initially hoped for, the architects were able to devise a vocabulary of forms that could be built of inexpensive materials, but still recall typical Indian architectural typologies specific to the school and temple. Simple strategies, like alternating the colors of the metal roof panels and building a stone precinct wall of limestone slabs that could be individually sponsored as part of the fundraising effort, combined pragmatism and poetry.

Pedestrian Bridge Lake Austin, Texas

This bridge connects the main house on a property facing Lake Austin to a separate guesthouse. Its structure is made of several 80-foot-long, 5-inch diameter welded steel tubes that arc gracefully over a watery inlet separating the two buildings. The deck and sides of the bridge are made of half-inch steel rebar wrapped around the tubes. These common elements combined in an unexpected way evoke wetland plants growing on the site and transform what could be an intrusive element into a symbiotic, almost invisible link.

LifeWorks Austin, Texas

This headquarters was built for a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk children and families reorient their lives through educational programs and counseling. The architects physically suggested the organization’s mission by orienting it outward and opening it up to the neighborhood. The building is aligned to the edge of its site along a curving street with parking set to the rear. A continuous, three-story colonnade runs along this front-facing elevation. Its columns are slightly askew, an oblique reference to the organization’s clients, who come seeking support and assistance.Another design element doing double duty is the mix of three different exterior cladding materials, which alludes to the organization’s three cornerstones: counseling, education, and youth development.

Circuit of the Americas Del Valle, Texas

The 1,500-acre Circuit of the Americas, just outside Austin, is the first purpose-built Formula 1 racing facility in the United States. For this project, the architects were commissioned to design a 9,000-seat main grandstand, a 27-acre Grand Plaza, a central greenspace with a 14,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, and a 251-foot-tall observation tower. (A specialist German firm designed the super curvy track itself.) Naturally, the team looked to cars and auto culture for formal design cues. This is perhaps most clearly expressed in the band of sinuous red pipes shrouding the observation tower, the most prominent element on the site. According to Rivera, the idea for them came from watching the endless taillights of cars in the evening commute on the notoriously crowded Austin freeways winding their way through the city.

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New Austin restaurant turns kitchen into “culinary stage” for guests to see food prep

2400 East Cesar Chavez Street in Austin was once a mid-century industrial warehouse occupied by a local bottling company. Now, the address is known as Juniper—a new northern Italian–inspired restaurant in Austin’s Holly District that joins a host of eateries that line the street. 

The renovation into an upscale contemporary restaurant was born from a collaboration between chef Nicholas Yanes and Austin-based studios, Sanders Architecture and Cravotta Interiors. As per Yanes’s request, the two studios were tasked with designing a space to bring the energy from the kitchen directly into the dining area.

To accomplish that, concrete beams and timber joists from the original structure have been left exposed within the 18-foot high dining space. Meanwhile, a floor-to-ceiling glass and steel wall that looks onto a courtyard facilitates a sense of openness.

This transparent theme prevails into the kitchen and bar. At Juniper, the kitchen is viewed as a “culinary stage” and guests are able to see Yanes’s team prepare dishes and drinks. Those eager to get closer to the action can sit at one of the 12 “chef’s counter” seats for a full-on view.

Juniper 2400 East Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX Tel: 512-220-9421 Designers: Sanders Architecture and Cravotta Interiors

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This year’s SXSW Eco conference featured a unique set of stage backdrops

On October 10, the two-day South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco Conference kicked off in Austin, Texas. Igor Siddiqui and Nerea Feliz, professors at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, were asked to design the stage backdrops for this year’s event. The design brief specified eight different, but interrelated, stage backdrops for the conference, ranging in width from 12 to 30 feet and offering a “striking visual presence that highlights innovation.”

Together, Siddiqui and Feliz explored issues of serial variation, digitally derived patterning, and robotic painting. The result was Serriform. Drawing on Ettore Sottsass’s 1992 Adesso Peró bookcase, Serriform gets its name from the serrated edges of its columns.

“Digital technologies have transformed the logic of mass production by allowing repetitive processes to produce variation, meaning that components, objects, and patterns produced in a series no longer all have to be the same,” said Siddiqui. “Our project was designed with such capabilities in mind.”

For example, Siddiqui continued, the columns forming the principal structure for the stage backdrops feature a range of different geometric profiles, while still belonging to the same “family.” “This was achieved using a parametric script in the design process,” he said. “Because the columns were fabricated digitally [using CNC machinery], it was as efficient to produce the series with such variation as it would have been had they all been identical.”

A Kuka Robotics KR60 robotic arm spray-painted the pattern on the panels while a script in algorithmic modeling editor Grasshopper was used to facilitate variation in the paint application. During this process, the script remained the same, but the variables within it changed in order to take into account materiality, fabrication, assembly, and use. “We were amazed by the idiosyncratic nature of each mark—none is the same even if the script is repeated over and over again,” said Siddiqui. “This allowed us to make the kinds of painted marks that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to achieve through any available mechanical or manual means.”

Siddiqui and Feliz intend for Serriform to be used beyond the SXSW conference. “The challenge of temporary installations like this is that they are only useful for a short period in time,” Siddiqui said. “A plan for its after-use was very important to us, so the whole installation is actually designed to serve as a shelving and partition system afterwards.” (According to Siddiqui, a Serriform 2.0 is on the way.) “We looked at iconic bookshelf designs, seeking examples where their sculptural qualities transcended function,” he continued. “Adesso Peró gave us some good clues, while allowing us to come up with a more variable version tailored to the digital era. Sottsass’s design is still all based on the repetition of the same dimension and form, and today we can do so much more! While his bookcase is a piece of furniture, we think of work as architecture. In this way, the H-profile columns (like that of steel members) are decidedly tectonic in nature and open to other spatial applications. We are continuing to work on this project by designing new scenarios for how the columns and panels can be used as shelving and partitions, and, unlike their role as backdrops, arranged in space in a more three-dimensional way.”

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Alterstudio Architecture transforms a bland condominium with a few materials expertly writ large

How do you make a 2,000-square-foot condominium feel Texan but not trite? That was the problem Alterstudio Architecture’s Kevin Alter had to solve for his client, who purchased a home in a Four Seasons residential development on Lady Bird Lake, one of the most scenic spots in Austin. Alter and his partners, Ernesto Cragnolino and Tim Whitehill, met the challenge by using classic materials—wood and steel—in artful, unexpected ways.

After much research and brainstorming, the architects hit on the idea of centering the design around seven giant Claro walnut slabs that they had found through a supplier in Sacramento, California, that harvests and mills only locally found dead trees (Claro walnut is a seriously endangered plant species). In the home, the slabs are deftly employed as seating and tabletops, and as a headboard in the master bedroom—where the client had wanted the largest possible slab used. But the one the architects located was too big for the freight elevator. So before placing the order, the team created a full-scale mock-up, which was lifted on top of the cab, through the hoist-way, to make sure that the actual wood could be hauled up to the condo.

In addition to the slabs, walnut is used throughout the space, with the occasional contrast of milled steel, which is used for the base of the bar because, said Alter, “everyone sitting at a bar is always kicking it.” The architects employed local woodworker Mark Macek to create the hand-milled walnut strips that form the screens used throughout the space and the wide-plank walnut floors. The wood furniture was custom designed and made by Atlanta-area craftsman Marco Bogazzi. “I’m interested in having things made exceptionally well,” said Alter.

Because correcting awkward levels in the ceiling would have been too costly, the architects turned to wallpaper to draw attention away from them—jute grasscloth from Twenty2 in the bedroom, Samui Sunrise from Eskayel in the living room.

The client, who also has a home in Dallas and one in Colorado, had hired the firm because he was impressed with its long list of architectural awards. This particular job did not require major architectural moves—no spaces were reconfigured—but the team did change all the surfaces, even the plasterboard walls. It was the first time they had worked on interiors only—an experience Alter had long desired. “I’m tired of other people messing up our architecture,” he said. Besides, he added, he liked the selection process; “it was like playing with all the things I’ve liked over the years.”

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UT Austin gets medical center that aims to reform the healthcare industry

The University of Texas at Austin is the first tier-one public university in the United States to build a new medical school from the ground up in almost 50 years. Dell Medical School, funded largely by a raise in local property taxes, consists of 11 departments and institutes scattered among new buildings on the southern edge of campus and oriented around the school’s idyllic Waller Creek.

The new campus’s master plan, designed to connect the medical district physically and architecturally to the rest of the university and Downtown Austin, was designed by Sasaki Associates and Page Southerland Page. Of its new structures, unquestionably the centerpiece is Page’s and S/L/A/M Collaborative’s Health Learning Building.

The five-story structure is a long, slender volume with massing, height, and materiality all informed by the campus’s materials, colors, and overall feel. It’s essentially divided into two main components: The north-facing “social edge”—a section of open spaces, workshops, and breakout zones expressed by a largely glass wall (including both clear- and clay-colored glass)—and a large, multilevel cantilevered stair. An opaquely-clad section, facing south, east, and west, is marked by intricately CNC-milled limestone walls with punched windows (shaded by terra-cotta colored fins). All areas feature team-based learning spaces and labs, as opposed to traditional classrooms, a strategy meant to promote innovation and collaboration.

“They’re really interested in being revolutionary. Rethinking the healthcare industry,” said Page partner Lawrence Speck. The school’s tagline, he noted, is Rethink Everything.

The surrounding structures, which Speck refers to as “fabric buildings,” are tied together, and to the rest of campus, by materials like stone and metal as well as by their height and massing. The 260,000-square-foot, eight-story Health Discovery Building is primarily for research and houses 97,000 square feet of laboratory space, a 20,000-square-foot vivarium and 15,000 square feet of core labs. The 233,000-square-foot, 10-story Health Transformation Building, an advanced medical office building, will be connected to the Health Discovery Building via a five-level “dry lab,” allowing collaboration among medical professionals and clinical researchers.

The campus is also shooting high in terms of sustainability. The Health Learning Building will be LEED Gold, while the overall district is aiming to be one of the first examples of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, evaluating buildings, landscape architecture, and engineering as a holistic whole.

Things seem to be going so well, said Speck, that the dean has already started talking to the design team about a second phase of building, far ahead of schedule. “They definitely see the architecture as a means to go after their goals,” said Speck, who has been studying, teaching, and building at UT for about 40 years. “I feel like I’m living a dream,” he added.

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As housing costs and economic segregation increase, Austin’s granny flats proliferate

Consider the accessory dwelling unit (ADU). It is a structure of many names, including secondary dwelling unit, garage apartment, granny flat, backyard cottage, casita, carriage house—the list goes on. The unit has equally as many uses: rentable occupancy, (secret) Airbnb gem, guesthouse, or extended family annex. Over the past decade, as housing costs have soared in cities like Austin, the casita has become a much-studied and proliferated phenomenon.

The ADU frenzy is not unique to Austin. The format is popular in other cities like Houston, Texas, or Sydney, Australia, which was, as of the end of 2015, churning out a hundred “Fonzie” flats a week. Portland (1,300 as of 2013) and Seattle (1,396 as of 2015) both established city pathways for creating secondary units. Across the border in Vancouver, 35 percent of all single-family residences have one. The back house represents an important option for low-impact densification, as it increases lot inhabitation and generates rental income but, due to its street invisibility, leaves the character of a neighborhood intact.

Austin’s ADU construction is widespread: 750 permits for “secondary apartments” have been issued since 2006, with the annual number of permits for these auxiliary units surpassing those for duplexes since 2014. Still, the structures are limited to multifamily and some single-family zonings, including SF-3, which carries a minimum lot size of 5,750 square feet, a maximum building coverage of 40 percent, and usually requires expensive infrastructural items like a separate water meter.

Austin’s ADU regulations were updated in November 2015, making it easier to build closer to primary structures, on smaller lots, and without parking in central, transit-adjacent areas. The ordinance also prohibited the use of the dwelling as a non-owner occupied short-term rental (STR), and restricted STR usage generally to 30 days per calendar year. Ahead of the new ordinance, local organization Austinites for Urban Rail Action (AURA) “dedicated to a vision of an Austin where everybody is welcome and everybody’s interests matter,” advocated for allowing ADUs everywhere in the city, and circulated an online petition that gathered over 1,000 signatures in support. Its “ADU City” report, released in June 2015, offers policy provisions and case studies in support of ADU growth. Via email, AURA board member Eric Goff stressed the importance of growing the housing supply and simplifying the permitting process. “Rules like unit caps, lot size, Sub Chapter F, FAR, building height, set backs, and others,” he wrote, “consistently make it difficult to add more housing.”

Here, house prices and rental rates continue to climb while income remains stagnant. The ADU, even in limited deployment, becomes useful in gentrifying neighborhoods, as its rental income balances out rising property taxes for families on low or fixed incomes. In a June editorial, city council member for East Austin’s District 3, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, said that he and his wife were only able to remain in their home because they built a secondary unit to supplement their income. These units, when rented at market rates, are largely occupied by younger individuals or couples who can afford to trade space and dollars for location. This doesn’t explicitly offer housing for lower-income renters, but it reduces market competition for cheaper units, allowing those units to be occupied by those who need them most. And it creates a revenue stream for those who are struggling to keep their homes, critical in areas like East Austin, where neighborhoods have lost 34 percent of their homeowners since 2002.

Substantial evidence demonstrates the myriad positive impacts of the ADUs. Their adoption is the goal of the Alley Flat Initiative, a collective effort started in 2005 by the University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development, the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, and the Austin Community Design and Development Center (ACDDC). The outfit provides resources, including design services, to citizens, neighborhood groups, and nonprofits interested in building ADUs. To date, it has realized five units, with two under construction and about nine in development. In mid-June, it hosted the first-ever Alley Flat Tour, showcasing the five completed units with over one hundred attendees. Nicole Joslin, who recently took over as executive director of ACDDC, said, “the biggest hurdles are access to financing and making the property taxes calibrated to the rent that’s being collected.” For example, an ADU built and rented through the City of Austin’s S.M.A.R.T. (safe, mixed-income, accessible, reasonably priced, transit oriented) Housing Policy that caps incomes for its renters is not recognized as affordable housing by Travis County and is appraised for market value, instead of the income generated, which is the typical indicator for multi-family property taxes. “Banks don’t know what to do with ADUs,” Joslin continued, noting conflict if the structure increases or decreases property value. Further, local house appraisers struggle with ADUs, sometimes grouping the square footage together with the main house or ignoring the unit altogether. “We’ve overcome a lot of the LDC barriers,” she said. According to Joslin, what is needed now are additional subsidies to lower the cost of construction and, as ADU requirements are relaxed, incentives to retain the primary house. Moving forward, she hopes to continue to build ACDDC’s “capacity to be a resource for their community partners and single-family homeowners who are trying to prevent displacement.”

High-design versions of the granny flat showcase its possibilities for architectural achievement. This year, AIA Austin presented a Design Award to For A Better Architecture (FAB) for its Hillmont Studio, an 850-square-foot back house in the Zilker neighborhood. The unit was also featured on the 2015 AIA Austin Homes Tour, along with another alley flat. FAB cofounder Patrick Ousey, AIA, said the challenge was to create a sense of privacy while still maintaining a connection to the street. The massing is pushed into the lot’s back right corner, and because the spaces “don’t stack exactly one over the other,” the overhanging bedroom hovers over the glassed-in living area and patio. Clad in thin black Hardie siding, the project also includes walnut cabinets, clean detailing, and an interior-exterior concrete wall that was “brought into the budget without increasing overall cost.” This materiality connected the interior to the site walls, tying together the entry movement from the curb all the way back to the ADU. The project cost about $200 per square foot, including landscaping. Ousey reported a normal permitting experience, though the water meter became a problem. Adding an additional meter can cost up to $20,000, a fee that “makes a small project like that not doable.” FAB is at work on another residence with a back house that is similarly sited for privacy. Big or small, the design work “boils down to quality,” Ousey said, and “quality comes at every budget.”

Granny flats occupy the lighter end of the “missing middle” housing density spectrum that is painfully absent in Austin. The ADU joins a larger set of housing solutions in development to keep Austin affordable. In early June, the city unveiled a draft of its first-ever housing plan. The Austin Strategic Housing Plan, available online, offers progressive solutions to make up the current deficit of affordable units by producing 35,000 units for those at 80 percent median family income—$62,250 for a family of four in Travis County this year—and 40,000 market-rate units for a total of 75,000 units in the next decade. The plan provides an arsenal of tactics: Tax Increment Financing (TIF), the expansion of homestead preservation districts, expanded density bonus programs, a strike fund that would be used to purchase and maintain existing multifamily complexes, expanded use of community land trusts (CLTs), renovation of the S.M.A.R.T. Housing program, and many other bold ideas. Even without policies available to other cities—Texas is the now only state where inclusionary zoning is illegal—these tools forecast admirable gains.

City of Austin senior planner Jonathan Tomko said that there is “two-pronged” reform at work, on both the policy and code fronts, and that maximum progress happens when the two work together in tight coordination. The policy battle is well underway, as is CodeNEXT, the effort to fully rewrite Austin’s Land Development Code. CodeNEXT is led by its main consultant, Opticos Design, a Berkeley-based outfit focused on walkable urban living and the “missing middle” housing movement. The city now estimates draft code to be delivered for public review in January 2017, and has released two of four prescription papers that preview strategies. The Household Affordability document, delivered in April, lays out the changes that are coming soon.

Some believe that the promised results of the CodeNEXT rewrite may not be enough to reverse Austin’s economic segregation, now rated at the worst in the nation. John Henneberger, winner of a 2014 MacArthur Genius grant and co-director of the Texas Housers nonprofit, wrote in a May 2016 blog post that “Austin must promote, as a public policy, economic and racial diversity across all neighborhoods and should reject the ghettoization of affordable housing into city-designated districts,” referencing the strategy to concentrate investment at transit-rich nodes. Speaking to the AIA Austin audience in June, Henneberger emphasized the rights of low-income citizens and argued for reform at the neighborhood level, including leveraging solutions like community development corporations (CDCs) to create affordable housing. Such activism remains important work as inequitable policies persist—evidenced by a 2015 Texas bill that allows landlords to discriminate against renters who use housing vouchers. Contemporary studies show that “laws aimed at things like ‘maintaining neighborhood character’ or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities,” according to The New York Times. Affordability is increasingly the central topic at city council: An additional fair housing initiative was approved in June, providing yet another referendum in support of consequential action.

This action is needed if Austin is to realize the big changes envisioned in the Housing Plan and CodeNEXT rewrite. Thankfully, many individuals and groups are up to the challenge. At the Alley Flat Initiative, Joslin is focusing future work on the financing of ADUs, and on neighborhood-scale sustainability efforts “more and more—this isn’t about architecture only.”

For Tomko, the goal is to have the housing plan approved by the end of 2016 as an appendix to Imagine Austin, the city’s comprehensive plan: “all types of housing for all types of people in all parts of town.”

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UT Austin’s School of Architecture gets its own site-specific art installation

In Hyperstyle, architects Mason Leland Moore and Joel Nolan of spaceCAMP create an environment in which physical tension takes center stage. The exhibition looks at the pull between the concrete floor and the ceiling of the Materials Lab at the school of architecture. Both set out to test different materials while exploring spatial concepts at specific site installations. Two grids of thin columns overlap with one rising from the floor, and the other descending from the roof. The tension is accentuated by the consistent overlays, along with a change in color from yellow to a light gray. Conventional construction techniques are reflected in the room’s organization through the intimate relationship formed between the ceiling and the floor’s multiple columns.

Hyperstyle is on view at the Materials Lab Gallery of the West Mall Building at the The University of Texas at Austin's School of Architectures, April 15–August 10.