We wanted to give you one last chance to preview one of the properties on the Austin Modern Home Tour this weekend. Architect, Eric Brown of Thoughtcrib, Inc., was kind enough to answer some questions for us about this stunning Texas regional Modern property. With this home, Brown had the challenge of designing a modern home for a young family that still maintained some traditional characteristics so that it would fit in with the neighborhood that surrounds it.
1. With this property being built in a more traditional style neighborhood, how were you able to design such a modern home without appearing out of place in its surroundings?
Rather than land a modern ‘spaceship’ into the neighborhood, the home was integrated into the neighborhood by using forms and materials that are familiar. Gable and hip roofs, stucco, stone and wood were used in meaningful ways that expressed the architectural idea as well as related to the surroundings.
2. With Austin being such a green city, what steps did you take while designing the home to make it more energy-efficient?
The first step was to make the design work with the site and the natural energies that flow through it. I always start with passive solar design strategies, the most important of which is orienting the home correctly. Other passive solar design strategies that were employed include large overhangs, cross and stack ventilation (using the two-storey volume to draw air through and out of the rest of the house), and daylighting. The goal of these design strategies is to minimize the operating loads of the house. An added bonus to this approach is that most requirements for active solar systems are also met and the home can produce most of the power it needs (via two large PV arrays). Additionally, we met the stringent requirements of the Austin Energy Green Building Program for a five star rating.
3. What opportunities does building homes in an area like Austin present? Challenges?
Despite some brutally hot summer days, the weather in Austin is very nice. This provides an opportunity for a lot of outdoor living and this home has plenty of outdoor living spaces to take advantage of that. In fact, the clients made the conscious decision to reduce air-conditioned space to get more outdoor space.
4. Is there a certain style that you notice a majority of Austinites tend to want to incorporate in their homes?
I have not noticed a particular style – Austinites are very eclectic. What is revealed more often are modern sensibilities. Austinites are keenly aware of the environment in a local and global context . As a result, their homes are designed to take advantage of and protect from the climate we have here. The methodologies and systems used take the larger ecosystem of construction and dwelling into consideration by reducing consumption of resources – during construction and during operation over the life of the home. This reveals another sensibility of Austinites which is to express their beliefs through creativity, architecture.
Trends that continue to be prevalent include open living spaces, connection to the outdoors, outdoor living spaces and the incorporation of sustainable methodologies and systems.
5. What place do you think contemporary homes have in a city like Austin?
A modern design approach allows everything to be questioned – lifestyles, allocation of resources, form, methodologies. Modern homes have always been and will continue to be an expression of the search for more appropriate solutions.
To view more projects by Eric Brown and Thoughcrib, just head over to his project portfolio.