Lake Travis, Texas
Envisioned as a home that will accommodate a family as it grows, and play host to friends and extended family, the ideas that inform the design of the house were developed through an unusual process — The family, including their children, all actively participated in design meetings with the team from Dick Clark Architecture. Critical decisions were vetted among the group and decided by vote, with each family member getting equal say. The result is a house that stays true to its purpose as a place where family and friends can spend precious free time enjoying one another and the beauty of the Highland Lakes setting.
In processing the program objectives of the family, Dick Clark Architecture made a number of suggestions: one was to organize the plan of the house so that primary views focus on interior courtyards or the lake itself. This heightens the “retreat” quality of the house, and ensure that even as development continues in the vicinity of the house, the quality of views will be maintained.
Dick Clark Architecture also advised their clients to keep the scale of the house as small as possible (for a large family), think of the front of the house in unconventional terms and consider details and materials that can be effectively maintained, with the idea that less time needed for “clean up” means more time relaxing.
These ideas rendered a plan organized around two distinct courtyards, connected by a highly transparent gallery (that becomes open air by sliding floor to ceiling doors to their open position). Bedrooms are located in the long wing to the west, while more social activities take place in the courtyards or in the kitchen and other living spaces in the east wing of the house.
The most gestural element of the house is a raised, copper clad pavilion with transparent walls facing south toward the neighborhood and north toward the courtyard and lake. The butterfly shape of the roof dramatically casts off rainwater through an oversized scupper, an external reference to the series of seven water features found inside the walls of the retreat. The courtyard offers two points of entry: when the large wooden gate is rolled in to the open position below the pavilion, the house invites visitors to come in through this primary pathway. A second gate is found by following a linear water feature that starts along the east edge of the sandstone wall. Not visible from the street, this entry provides a more intimate arrival into the courtyard.
The west wing transitions from opaque to more transparent as it moves toward the lake. The master suite takes advantage of its lakeside view in part through the inclusion of a “perch” for the parents, who occasionally like to be able to withdraw and read a book while still maintaining a view to the activity taking place in the courtyard and lake below.
Exterior walls, made of sandstone, were assembled through a drystack method, in which no mortar was used. The result is a monolithic form in which the warn tones of the stone are ever variable under the changing conditions of natural light.
When gallery walls open, the two courtyards become one continuous space, perfect for parties. (A steel frame butterfy roof in the lakeside courtyard makes it possible to fire up the outdoor grill, even when it is raining). The lakeside courtyard, including the trees preserved during construction, ameliorate the slope of the site. Drawing subtle influence from Japanese garden practices, the shifts in elevation are defined and integrated by areas of softscape, areas of hardscape and a linear water feature. The final water feature in the series of seven brings together the family’s love of water and social activity: a jacuzzi large enough to accommodate twelve people and offering an outstanding view of the lake.
Halili limestone is used continuously inside as the surface material for the pool courtyard as well as inside the house. The only variable is the size of the stone blocks. Smaller cuts are used in the interior of the house and more private areas of the exterior.
The kitchen is conceived with the idea that cooking and the enjoyment of meals are participatory activities. A large table extends perpendicularly from the island cooktop, providing a place for informal dining or buffet style service. By creating four distinct (and different sized) seating areas for meal-taking in the living area and kitchen, indoor dining can be easily set for two or an assembled group of twenty, all sharing and interacting in the same space.