So many Pics…

…and so little time to post. I have all these pics to share, of the restaurant and the new office, not to mention some on the progress on Kyle’s job, (admit it, you miss seeing that omnipresent and oh so bucolic windmill thingy) but I’m burning disks to send to Korea and Ecuador instead. So while this thing burns away (these mac pro laptops get hot or what???) maybe I’ll put SOMETHING up, and I won’t feel so guilty!

You’ll just have to imagine my witty comments underneath each one, I know you can do it! These are from the restaurant. Drool baby, drool…

MOVING!!!! Curra’s is almost done

We had to move out of the old office before the new one is finished, so it has been quite hectic around here. But, man, are we excited about the new office, or what!!! I can’t wait to post pictures of the work in progress, soon!!!

And guess what, Curra’s at Parmer and Mc Neill is almost finished!!! They will do a test opening on Monday! IT LOOKS INCREDIBLE. I took some pics before it was finished and I’m going to start taking serious pics (along with a couple other professional photographers) so get ready!!!

Everyone is in love with the place, with the perforated plywood and the big ass fan, it feels almost like you can fly in there. It’s SO open, bright and clean, and FUN. They are going to make a killing at this place. Stay tunned. VV

Big Ass, Bad Ass, Kyle’s Ass

Our excitement over some key elements is crossing over from client to client! We’re talking about the

Big Ass Fan!


(I’m talking really loud because the last time we mentioned them in our newsletter and in this blog, we got the coolest swag imaginable, thanks guys!) But seriously, we love this company, and we love the product. Hell, it’s good enough for the cows, right? The thing, though, is that it’s good for the rest of us too.

See, besides that it looks cooler than you-know-what, the reason we are all excited about it, it’s because the energy savings and the comfort levels we are expecting to get out of it. This fan moves at a very low velocity, but it displaces vasts amounts of air. When you check their site out make sure to click on “product innovation” to read about it.

You may know this already, we are obsessed with reducing as much energy usage as possible in every one of our projects, we all know that this is becoming more and more crucial, right? So, the idea is that this fan will work in sync with the air conditioning, and distribute the air coming from it with high efficiency, reducing the amount of time that the A/C unit operates. The fan requires much less use of energy and it doesn’t use any chemicals or put out any exhaust. It also lowers the temperature by several degrees on its own. Every bit counts!

So, Curra’s finish out is on it’s last stretch and we are counting the minutes. Soon the big perforated plywood panels will be up (that will be a big day!) and the door with a stainless steel and wood handle, designed by MJ and crafted by Crippen Sheet Metal (steel) and Archwood Cabinetry (wood) will be finally done. All the restaurant equipment is in, and wait until you see the metal vanities, finished with white car paint…

So, what’s up with Kyle’s Ass? Good question. He really wants a Big one! Actually, the Big Ass Fan is perfect for his project even more so! His painting studio IS like a big modern barn, and the fan will become a must have in his case (only a small portion of the studio is air conditioned, one of the reasons we’re able to build such a big structure for a very minimal price! … And he also owns two miniature donkeys.)

So, now enjoy this journey to the Cleburne site, via the wonderful pictures that Justin Parr took. He’s an artist and friend of Andy Benavides, the general contractor and art gallery owner, mind you ….(are we lucky or what! A builder/artist??? And he’s not the only one we work with, right? Remember John and Mike?) Anyway, meet the crew in Cleburne (I think MJ is in love) and by the end you’ll see our crazy but lovable client and friend riding his miniature donkey. I know, what are the odds…

The view is still so pretty…

That’s Shorty.


The Steel Sips man, David.

And the boss-man, Andy Benavides, also proud gallery owner and maker of picture frames…

It’s ok guys, MJ said this one is coming down, anyway.

No, really. (True story… really)

OK, let’s eat, good idea.

That looks yummy.

It’s ok Kyle, you’re not paying for the food…

Or are you???


OK. Back to work. I want a Big Ass Fan!!!!.

The architect has much “esplaining” to do.

The name’s for posterity, these guys are the kind that take pride:-)

Political propaganda put to good use.

That’s the fire pit. Maybe they are discussing the pig roasting? (We’ll be there for that!)

Let’s get to the donkey part…

Tonto and Harold

Big tonto on Tonto: I want a Big Ass Fan!!!

Guy’s crazy, dude.


From Clebourne to Austin to San Anton to Clebourne (the back way)

Maybe I should title this blog “the Daily Debacle”. Actually I dedicate everyday to the making of beautiful things. Maybe I should say the making of beautiful, appropriate things.

I receive one of those phone calls I’ve been talking about.

To back up for a minute and fill you in: in the last episode we found out that the original contractor was leaving the industry and delivering horses. Did I mention this guy was a bull rider. A true cowboy with a grip of steel. He will crush your puny hand.

I had a client meeting yesterday where I met the new contractor for the job. He is an artist. Literally. Someone that speaks the language. ( looking forward to getting to know him better). So my client is down here in Austin yesterday and then travelled to San Antone to hang with his bud, the new contractor. The artist. To have marg’s at what sounded like a great bar, with trains passing and everything …

I had to stay in Austin and try and chase down a missing in action HVAC sub (more on that later) Well, like I said, I get this phone call later in the afternoon from my client. He tells me that he has driven in the back way to see if he can see what the crew is doing from a distance. Wants to get a long view. Nothing. Proceeds to the house. just sits down from his long trip back when the phone rings. His father in law is with the steel crew and the contractor in back.

Client “hello”

Father in Law “When are you going to be back?”

“I’m back”

“Good. These guys have forgotten their plans at the house and can’t put anything up.”

Client “I’ll bring them my set shortly”

So the contractor and the steel erector had forgotten their plans.

The long and the short of it, even later in the afternoon I had a message from the client that the first piece of the steel super structure was up and that “It’s beautiful!” Sweet words to my ears. I hope it wasn’t put up backwards.

But best debacle of the day. The HVAC contractor ,who’s been holding up my restaurant job for two weeks, is missing today. So the job will quickly come to a halt if the required work isn’t done shortly. Dry wallers are ready to walk because they can’t finish, the framer can’t finish . We can’t pull the top out inspection to even cover the ceiling up.

The process of bidding the front handle and push was started yesterday though . It’s stainless steel and an exotic wood that will take on character as the oil in hands rubs of on it. There should be some patina almost immediately. This first and last physical sensation of the resturant should be a warm one.

Sprinting Spring

I’ve got to be in some accelerated time warp, school is almost over… it’s time for our Spring Newsletter. Can you believe it! At least, my tomatoes are planted… Now they need to grow, so I can make my gazpacho! (gazpacho stuff)

1. An Artist’s Dream. An Artist’s Barn
2. Live Non-toxic. Build Non-toxic
3. Two-Residence Condo Project on Jeff Davies
4. HGTV Ponders What’s with that House – May 10 – 11 PM (E) / 10 PM (C)
5. Another M. J. Neal House on Bouldin About to Start Construction
6. Curra’s Grill About to Open! We Get an Ass or Two
7. Architect Porn by Scott
8. Great Spaces: Home interiors
9. Off to Mexico Lindo
10. Let me Buy You a Cup of Coffee…

1. An Artist’s Dream. An Artist’s Barn.

Kyle Farley of Cleburne, TX is a talented artist and a friend. We met him and his wife, Angela, at our favorite bar in Fort Worth. Over margaritas and the best green salsa known to man and woman, we used to discuss things people discuss on Tuesday nights at dilapidated 60’s hotel bars, during our whole semester teaching at UTA.

Kyle had been dreaming of building a painting studio of his own for a long time, whada’ya know, so he kept picking M. J.’s brain about it and M. J. kept running one of his man fugit scenarios to Kyle; in where he escapes to this studio that exists only in their imagination and watches him paint; holding a cold beer in his hand, his cell phone turned off. A couple or three years later, the moment of truth is here; in full daylight, this time is for real, the foundation has been poured, the steel has been fabbed in Dallas… and Angela and I can stop hearing about it and we get to watch. Inside Kyle’s head: the next collection that he will paint in there very soon. If I lose sight of M. J., I know where to find him… and I better bring some cold ones with me.

An exciting project for an architect, with a very modest budget-under 100,000-this not-so-imaginary studio is a “modern barn.” Only a small “chinese box” at the center is air-conditioned. The cozy living area contrasts with the oversized metal building open to the four winds… and the large rectangular fire pit.

2. Live non-toxic. Build non-toxic.
While we are on the “affordable housing” front, M.J. Neal Architects has started collaboration with George Swanson. Over the years, George has completed over eighty low-toxic, and fully non-toxic “Breathing” natural building projects in eleven states and several foreign countries. The knowledge of this man regarding all aspects of truly sustainable and green building is way too huge to sum up here. I highly recommend that you read his website and attend one of his workshops.

M. J. is helping him with the design of four houses on the East side that are geared to become the experimental grounds for the use of dragon board panels and the mass production of affordable housing for chemically sensitive people. We’ve wanted to work with George for a long time. We’ve also wanted to get more involved with affordable housing options. Now it’s happening and these projects marry two very important issues to us, affordability and green building. Who isn’t fighting poisons and high costs these days?

george’s digs

3. Two-Residence Condo Project on Jeff Davies
Speaking of dream builders (yes, they exist, it just takes a long, long time to find them…:-) we also started work with John Bowyer. He has the name of a French actor and the refinement to go with it… a … French builder… that’s an odd image… ok let’s try again, John was trained as a designer, went into building and we are just psyched to be working with him. He’s into everything we’re into and we are prone to taking wild road trips to the country side of Texas in search of new materials and ideas. More on this to come. Let me tell you this, these houses will never have a single moth in them! If you are in the market for an affordable M. J. Neal house, wait until you see these! And you just can’t find a more careful and thorough builder/developer. The buyers of his latest home drew smileys on their check to him!

4. HGTV ponders What’s with that House – May 10 – episode .. 108
We are on TV again! (Are they still re-running the Fine Living, Breathing Room episode? That bit got more milage than my old Volvo, just yesterday we got an email asking about something they had seen in it!)

HGTV came by to ask What’s With that House? So we told them… It was bitter-sweet for us and I wish that they had given us the footage to keep as a memento, but all they’ll give us is the episode they’ll air… TOMORROW! – May 10, 2006 – Episode .. 108 – 11 PM (Easter and Pacific) / 10 PM (C) Let us know what we said (MJ and I don’t watch TV!), because I was so tired that I barely remember a thing about this shoot… except that they had the new Sony HD-DV camera, that caught my eye;-) (I admit it, I do miss the Ramp House, but I’ll live… especially because the house we moved into has tons and tons of potential and it’s shaded and quiet. It will be a great remodel example to give later on. And for Texans only, can you believe that we haven’t had to turn on the air conditioning, yet? It has that many trees! )


5. Another M. J. Neal House on Bouldin About to Start Construction
Speaking of the red one, the project next door is about to start construction by Blue Horse. We call it the Wolf Den for the big bad wolf… (Just joking, Alex, we love you!)

Features in this house that we especially like are: the extension of the living area onto an exterior space complete with outdoor fireplace and lap pool, a storage system that runs the length of the east side of the house on both levels, and the sliding aluminum lattice doors shading the west sun as desired. The projects on Bouldin seem to be coming at us at rapid speeds, we’ll keep you posted as they develop.

6. Curra’s Grill About to Open! We Get an Ass or Two
The new Curra’s Restaurant – North, designed by M. J. Neal, will open the beginning of June. The new Curra’s will feature perforated plywood, a big ass fan and polished concrete floors. Curra’s new location is at Parmer and McNeill in Austin.

The big ass fan company sent us their new catalogues and two cute asses to put on our desks. They are the squeezy kind.

big ass fans


(By the way there’s another VERY exciting restaurant project in the works. Shhh… Stay tuned, can’t talk about it yet!)

7. Architect Porn by Scott
Did you follow the drama on Miesandcarrots? If you didn’t, see below and have at it. The link will take you to a house that never was, unless you buy the site and let us renovate it:-) If you read the posts chronologically, you can follow the process of a modernist choosing his architect. The whole site is great, really, lot’s to explore besides M. J.’s stuff.


8. Great Spaces: Home interiors

The Great Spaces: Home Interiors book is out! Both MJ and I were very impressed with the quality of the work in the book. We are honored to be in it!

great spaces

9. Off to Mexico Lindo
As you know, if you read the last Newsletter in January, M. J. has been invited to exhibit and lecture at the Third International Exhibition of Contemporary Interior Design that will open on May 18th at the Claustro Betlemitas, Mexico, DF, the leading museum of contemporary design in Mexico City. This event is organized by the IIDA México City Chapter, Plazola Editores and the Colegio de Arquitectos, Ciudad de México.

M. J. Neal, will exhibit boards of the Ramp House residence and the Anthony Nak flagship store at this prestigious exhibition in Mexico city and other cities, as a traveling exhibition. The Ramp House previously won the Miami Bienal 2003 Silver Medal for Interior Design, the Texas Society of Architects Honor Design Award and the AIA, Austin Citation of Honor Award. Anthony Nak was the IIDA 2005 winner, a TSA Honor Design Award, an AIA, Austin Citation of Honor Award and the Store Concept of the year by Couture International, Jeweler. (This last award was presented to store owners Anthony Camargo and David Nakard)

Soooo… we’re off to Mexico for a few days (May 18-21) We’ll only go missing from the office for Thursday the 17th and Friday 18th, but we may decide to ride off into the sunset…. just kidding.


10. Let me Buy You a Cup of Coffee…
We’ve been fortunate to win many awards here at M. J. Neal Architects. Awards are great, for sure, but the sense of achievement and success that comes from “winning” is an illusion. “Ok, so I won, now what? What changed, really?” The actual “work” is where it’s at! The recognition and wins are just a nod that you are going in the right direction. You stop for a moment to celebrate, get happy, and then you keep at it exactly the same way you were going to begin with…

So healthy competition in games, art, etc, can be lots of fun and a terrific stimulus, no doubt, but when I look at it from an educational perspective, I can’t help but think, are we buying a bit much into this? Do we need to base the bulk of the education of our children on how they “do” compared to others?

The sense of personal achievement for work that you’ve given it all to, doesn’t need to be measured; actually, it can’t be, because it’s unique to the individual. Wanting to excel and learn is innate to humans and part of a personal process that can’t truly be measured against others. Putting too much stake into competition, in my opinion, is a flag indicating a reaction to the fear that we may not be good enough, coupled with a mind-frame of “scarcity” where there’s not enough to go around for everyone. To me, our nature is abundant, balanced, and nurturing so one might say that this fear is also just an illusion…

If you are interested in educational topics, come to the Thursday coffees at the mansion at Sri Atmananda. The Open Doors Coffee introduces the KPM Institute, the KPM Approach to Children and Sri Atmananda Memorial School. If you are planning to come to a coffee, please RSVP to Suzanne Pitman, KPM Institute Executive Secretary,, 512-467-2820 or 512-689-6109.

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<a href=”;kpm approach

Ok, let’s go for a swim or something…

06 peeking at us

We are grateful for the year peeking at us with a kind eye.

1. New Featured Project, Szeto/Shum Residence renderings at
2. New Curra’s Restaurant starts construction
3. Challenging Remodel in Rollingwood
4. Steep-site Remodel in Balcones Drive
5. University of Texas Arlington Revisited
6. Exhibition in Mexico
7. Books and Magazines: Japan, Mexico and Bulgaria publish work by M. J. Neal, AIA
8. Sponsorship. M.J. Neal Architects and Barcelona Films support Sri Atmananda Memorial School

1. Check the “Featured Project” on our website for the new renderings for the Szeto/Shum Residence! This project is nearing its final construction documents phase and is on an “lean and mean” budget.

2. Curra’s North has started construction.
We are pleased to announce that the new Curra’s Restaurant – North, designed by M. J. Neal, has started construction. The new Curra’s will feature perforated plywood, a big ass fan and polished concrete floors. We are very excited about a new system for finishing concrete floors. They look incredible and you never have to redo them again!

Curra’s new location is at Parmer and McNeill in Austin. If you’ve never tried their delicious interior Mexican food, well, most likely, you just moved to Austin!


3. Remodel project in Rollingwood, a complete remodel and addition of a house with dramatic views of downtown. Bringing it up to date, adapting it to the needs of the new owners, and connecting the house back to the land makes this a challenging and exciting project.

4. Another remodel of a 50’s house, this one on Balcones Dr, that presents interesting opportunities as we are dealing with a steep site, an old house, and a landscape that has gone back to a semi-wild state. Volume will be added to the house to create a library and a new master bedroom. All the other rooms will be opened up to the new private, and semi-private, gardens that will be created by taking advantage of the overgrowth.

5. M. J. Neal, AIA returns to the University of Texas, Arlington to teach a graduate design studio. There may be more news on the universities front, come next winter… check back for updates. In December, M. J. was invited to the University of Texas, Austin, to UTA, and to Texas Tech for final student critiques. He was also one of the jurors for the 2005 AIA, Lubbock awards.


6. M. J. Neal, AIA invited to the Third International Exhibition of Contemporary Interior Design – Bienal Mexico
M. J. Neal, AIA has been invited to exhibit boards of the Ramp House residence and the Anthony Nak flagship store at this prestigious exhibition in Mexico city and other cities, as a traveling exhibition. The Ramp House previously won the Miami Bienal 2003 Silver Medal for Interior Design, the Texas Society of Architects Honor Design Award and the AIA, Austin Citation of Honor Award. Anthony Nak was the IIDA 2005 winner, a TSA Honor Design Award, an AIA, Austin Citation of Honor Award and the Store Concept of the year by Couture International, Jeweler. (This last award was presented to store owners Anthony Camargo and David Nakard)

The Third International Exhibition of Contemporary Interior Design will open on April 2006 at the Claustro Betlemitas, Mexico, DF, the leading museum of contemporary design in Mexico City. This event is organized by the IIDA México City Chapter, Plazola Editores and the Colegio de Arquitectos, Ciudad de México.

The first and second events had more than 33,000 visitors in Mexico City during 5 weeks, with the principal works of architects, interior designers and industrial designers from all over the world (Mexico, USA, Spain, Ireland, Brasil, Corea, South Africa, Canada, Germany, etc). Some other firms exhibiting this year are Karim Rashid, Jorge Penzi, Legorreta Legorreta, KMD, and Cini Boeri.


7. More international publishing for M. J. Neal, AIA. Last year was an intense one of publications for our work, and the beginning of 2006 seems equally poised.

Upcoming Magazines and Books:

SPA-DE, Space-Design,is a newly established Japanese magazine for interior architecture and design focusing on commercial and office spaces. SPA-DE presents an international selection of distinctive restaurants, bars, cafés, boutiques, shops, hotels, beauty salons, museums, as well as shopping centers, space installations, display design, furniture design, etc. by the world’s hottest designers and architects. M. J. Neal’s Anthony Nak Flagship Jewelry Store will appear in the fifth issue, which will be published both in Japanese and English in the Spring.

Ambientes, by Editorial Expansion is one of the leading interior design Magazines in Mexico. The anthony Nak store will be featured on the February-March issue.


The Home Today and Tomorrow magazine – a Bulgarian print venue for furniture, interiors, design, and new trends has requested the Edmonds residence.

the home

Libro de la Exposicion de la Tercera Muestra Internacional de Interiorismo. A book with a selection of the works exhibited in Mexico (see number 6) will be published by Plazola Editores, S.A. in 2006.

8. Sri Atmananda Memorial School

Many of you know that our son attends Sri Atmananda Memorial school. After much thought, we decided to pull him out of the traditional schooling environment, that most of us went through, and try the KPM Institute approach to Children. SAMS is a non-sectarian, private school where every child is unconditionally valued and acknowledged. The teacher-student relationship is at the center of the approach with a ratio of 4:1. I’ve never seen so many children and so many teachers having so much fun, every single, blessedly full, day.

Sri Atmananda School is a daily source of inspiration, hope, and just plain happiness for the three of us; it has brought to our family profound positive changes. To us, this way of schooling is critical to self-discovery, by supporting honesty and clarity in learning and in life.

M.J. and I strive to contribute to a honorable way of life, not only with our architecture and film work, but through big and small daily actions; we try our best to breathe life into our core principles as we endeavor to create a milieu of freedom, honesty, and love.

If you are curious about this education approach, and the school, attend their open houses, Child Worl Workshops,and coffee sessions. And see these websites:

Sri Atmananda Memorial School (SAMS for short!)
kpm approach to children