Texas Architect July/Aug 2007: Luxury
Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other editorial content largely written by AIA members in Texas. That collective participation was the basis of Texas Architect’s recognition by the national AIA with a 2010 Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievement.
texas architect 38 7/8 2007 A prestigious Congress Avenue address and the excitement of living in the middle of downtown Austin wasn’t enough for Dennis Karbach. He also wanted suburban amenities in his five-bedroom townhouse, including a three-car garage, an outdoor swimming pool, and a yard. His architect was unfazed, despite the daunting challenge of meeting those needs in an old 20 x 150-foot, cave-like building. Taking to heart Alexander Pope’s advice to “consult the genius of the place,” Tim Cuppett, AIA, searched within the three-story sliver for clues as to how he could exploit its constraints to his client’s benefit. Cuppett’s immediate objective was to look beneath the cast-concrete skin of the abandoned and fire-damaged, 9,000-square-foot shell located just a few blocks south of the State Capitol. That archaeological exercise yielded some unexpected results when the 1950s-era, west-facing brise soleil was removed. Much to the surprise of both the owner and architect, the undistinguished building turned out to be a bona fide historic property constructed in 1874. Half of its charming symmetrical three-bay limestone facade was intact and surviving embellishments included a semi-circular parapet cartouche carved with the year the building was originally erected. Even though most of the protruding crown moldings had been sawed off to facilitate the flush mounting of the modern perforated skin, there was enough of the original masonry to qualify for the much-sought-after historic zoning status through the City of Austin. At his considerable unscheduled time and unanticipated expense, Karbach decided to restore the building to its original exterior configuration. Historical photographs served as guidelines, by Lawrence connoLLy, aIa Stonewedge (above) the gypboard south wall at right was furred in so the narrow building, with its two long walls of split-face limestone, would feel less cave-like. (opposite page, top and bottom) the new structural system is expressed at each of the four levels and skylights in the bottom of the pool cast daylight down through the building. Visible at the entry, the original wood joists contrast with the vestibule’s frosted glass panels, the elegant slate stair, the steel structure, and the smooth ceiling surface. project 811 Congress Avenue, Austin client Dennis Karbach architect Tim Cuppett, AIA design team Tim Cuppett, AIA; Bruce Loethen; Andrew Perez contractor J. Pinnelli Company consultants Jerry Garcia (structural engineer) photographers Paul Bardagjy; Woody Welch; Tim Cuppett