Duval Studio

The program was to provide workspace for a multi-disciplinary creative studio. The location was in the last remaining intact interior of a small completely masonry (interior and exterior) strip center designed and built in the late forties.

New additions are of wood and steel to contrast the existing raw masonry. Everything new is installed so that when removed, the integrity of the raw space is maintained for the future.

Careful allocation of funds and tricks like kerfing the ¾” plywood to provide the “poor man’s curves” where used to meet the extremely low budget of twelve thousand dollars. New materials are formaldehyde free plywood with a tung oil finish, cold rolled steel, and paint.

Update: this project won a Merit Award at the AIA, Austin 2010 Design Awards.

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Creative Process Sneak a Peak

I was opening files and this Skype chat between MJ and I came up.  We were in the same city, yes, but in different houses, late at night (noooo we didn’t have a fight… it’s a loooong story… to be told another time) We had a deadline on an article we had been asked to write for our good friends at the Good Life Magazine so we both got on skype…

You won’t see a post like this every day on this blog, no sir


Chat History with 

Created on 2006-12-07 22:51:33.


so we’re working remotely for this article. the beuty and the beast of technology
how are we to maintain a physical community with this?
it would be a long story to explain why we are not doing this in person, but it IS related to housing
or not
ok the absence of housing then
well maybe it is also the absence of the ability for most to be “neighbors” these days or maybe that is a little to harsh
I liked your perception of the fence around our house, I’m going to paste it here
it is a beautiful metophor
a physical thing
a real thing
Our current house has a low chain link fence around the back yard. You know the type, the one your parents put up to keep the family dog from getting into their friend’s–read neighbors–yard and digging up the tomatoes. The fence dad would lean on while talking to Mr. Jones. The fence where Mrs. Jones would trade mom some tomatoes for zucchini. Well this fence of ours, has gates in it to the neighbors’ yards. Imagine that. Openings to my neighbors’yards. A gesture to the sense of community right there in my own back yard.
 But these gates are covered with vines and have been wired shut.   When? Why? What a beautiful thing those gates are.
(this is a goo “last line)I wonder if my neighbors would like some Squash?  

is that goo or good?
maybe we should skip the IM thing and go home and get in bed
I like the tactile part
ok back to the article
double arts
somehow I think that the point you make about community is also related to “truth”
that should be double rats
or double star


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Bigger Projects

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You might have noticed that we are posting design projects that are, how to say it delicately, a bit “fatter”. Yes bigger buildings, we are entering competitions and establishing relationships with other outfits and new types of clients. We are emphasizing more and more the importance and weight that the opportunity to contribute, not only with good design and sustainable practices, but also social purpose, bear with us.

I think I speak for each of us when I say that contributing to our communities is important and a part of our collective vision as professionals and artists. 

We never, ever, want to let go of the little projects (MJ keeps drilling me on how important it is to make thoughtful design available to EVERYONE. You can really see him enamored of every single project at the office, like the little Wimberly cabin that will soon go into construction, 750 sq ft!) But, that said, we are putting a lot of effort lately into landing bigger projects.

They really challenge MJ as a designer, they give us the opportunity to engage the whole of the team, and we feel that we can do service to a greater amount of people at once.

An example of this line of thinking is a project we did a while ago in collaboration with Land Design Studio and Foda Studio, who else:-), for a new school building for American Youth Works. I think it exemplifies the type of work and service I am talking about. Designing places where youth can develop and play, experiment, shine… We do think that built environment affects personal development, potential. Can we help someone soar?


Dun Laoghaire Library Competiton

We were proud of our entry for the Dun Laoghaire Library Competition. Reese and MJ got to travel to Dublin and see the site in person. The location is on the Irish Sea and they stayed in a hotel right on the shoreline, a block and a half from the site. Field trips are something else… especially if there’s Guiness involved. We hope to go back to Ireland soon. We miss it! We’ve spent a couple of month-long summer vacations there. We especially liked the Connemara and Northen Ireland, all of Ireland is just perfect, really.

Anyway, here’s our competition entry.

Energy, Energy, Energy

If you are not going to be at home, turn the A/C off, or put it at a higher setting. Since we live in a very shaded house that is also probably sitting on rock, we didn’t have to turn the A/C on until two or three weeks ago… So, it’s a little bit of work to open the windows at night (there’s a frequent breeze passing through here, as we are up on a hill) and close them during the day, to keep the heat out. Do it. It’s worth it. We’ve also gotten in the habit of hanging some of our clothes to dry outside. It’s better for the clothes, better for the environment, and it makes them smell good!We’re hell bent into finding energy saving tips. Not just through our architecture, that goes without saying, but in our daily lives as well.

Look at this news article by the City of Austin. We’ve had the highest energy use ever, three months in a row!!! OK, c’mon, let’s get on the horse! It’s up to us. We are the ones using the energy. If we all save a little, just a little, it makes a BIG difference. Be aware, save energy, every day a little bit.

The Solution to the Ordinance

Madness has taken over our City Council, it must be the late hours they keep… they are about to pass, in a hurry, and without any further public hearing, a City of Austin ordinance that will put us under the most restrictive development code in the United States. Why, you ask? The neighborhood associations are fed up with Mc Mansions, bless their hearts, who isn’t! But they’ve come up with a convoluted set of restrictions that is hurting everyone else in the process…

Right, no worries, we’ll work around it, but I personally think they’ve gone too far; I mean .4 FAR (*Floor to Area Ratio), I can live with, in most cases (should be at least .5 for duplexes) but the rest of the restrictions have got to go away!!! They dictate design, after much pledging not to do so, they don’t contemplate site specifics, they don’t contemplate tree placement and other natural and artificial site features, they contribute to sprawl and hurt densification, it can be argued that they create more imprevious cover, it doesn’t allow for enough massing flexibility, the list goes on and it’s painful.

Consider this, a client that has a fantastic but dramatically sloping lot and a fabulous tree on one side that has been incorporated into the design… in this particular case, it’s a real one, following the new code would cost him between $30 and $40,000 of extra foundation work… We know this exactly because we had both case scenarios priced. And he could not, nor he should, afford the extra expense. The house fits in and looks fantastic either way. It doesn’t hurt it’s neighbors, who are even taller… the restrictions don’t make any sense whatsoever in this case! And this is just one example. There will be hundreds. All of us in the profession know this. In this particular case, our client will be ok, because he will get his permit before this craziness goes into effect, but I’m certainly factoring in the extra time we will have to spend in front the board of adjustments from now on, in order to protect our clients from unnecessary hardship.

As it is now, we rarely have to ask for a variance at all.. From now on, this may not be the case anymore. Fun. There will be more on this blog on this arena, we are putting together a joint presentation with other contemporary architects in the city… here’s a hint, it turns out that the majority of award winning and published homes in the city could not be built under the new proposed code, nor could most of the historical mansions downtown. No, really.

We are talking the very structures that represent the best of Austin’s architecture in the eyes of the world, that could simply not exist under the new proposed rules! Hundreds of stunning structures of new and old, wouldn’t meet code anymore! Is there something wrong with this picture? You bet. Something has gone terribly wrong with the minds of our elected officials, like they have way too much pressure from the neighborhood associations, who in turn have too much pressure form the irresponsible building that’s going on in Austin, and I’m afraid that we all end up losing… unless you have a big lot, in which case it doesn’t affect you very much… Come think of it, it’s not very fair, is it… Oh, believe me, I do feel much for the neighbors, I applaude the initiative to do something about it. I was in agreement, I had no problems with the .4 FAR moratorium… But when I read the final draft, I jumped out of my chair. They have no idea of what the building envelope and the massing restrictions really mean, especially for contemporary architecture. It’s so obvious to all of us, in the architecture community, and we have been talking amongst ourselves, oh yes we have… I just hope we get a word in to the right places, and quickly.

In the mean time, maybe we should all just buy one or two of these and call it good!
We can call them McNugets!!! (I stole that from a great speech by a worried property owner speaking against the ordinance a fateful Friday at 3 AM… sorry I don’t recall his name, I was a bit sleepy!)
Seriously, they are pretty incredible… compare to the trailer homes around your area…


*FAR: Take the gross floor area of your lot and multiply by .4 The result is the amount of habitable square footage you can build on your property, minus/plus other restrictions and allowances. This is a convoluted ordinance. Call us for advice if you are considering the purchase of a lot, or are trying to find out what can you do with your land. As a rule of thumb, if your lot is bigger than average, it will affect you less. Remodels are affected as well, although they seem to be less restricted than new constrution.