Honored by Dwell: 100 Houses we Love, 2000-2010

A friend comes to pick up her child from a play-date with our son and she announces excitedly that we are in Dwell. I smile and I say I know! Isn’t it great, we’ve been on Dwell a couple times, which one did you see! And she goes, no, you are in the “100 Houses we Love” Dwell, and you have a big article in it!

So we pick it up. Here’s an excerpt of the editorial:

They only chose TEN full articles, one per year. Thank you Dwell not only for choosing us–what an honor–but also for making us the chosen article for 2008.

One in ten years, ten homes in one hundred. Wow.

And so it is! Now in stands and zinnio, enjoy!

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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.


These writings are exclusively the opinion of MJ Neal and do not necessarily reflect the opinion and philosophy of MJ Neal Architect

“There is work in understanding one another, having patience, arriving at something”
Ettore Sottsass – interview in Domus 887

“We live in a period of speed: in order to manage it we need to work together, looking at technology as a tool not as a goal, keeping the basic values of humanism, avoiding superficiality, solving people’s needs without serving power and materialism”
Ricardo Legorreta – preface to “the Architecture of Ricardo Legorreta”
by John V. Mutlow

So they tell me, We’ve started you a blog. A what? Actually I do know what a blog is. It seems though that I heard somewhere that blog’s were already passe’. That the one’s in the know have already moved on. Is this like the buffalo moving. Perhaps.

And then, you have to be personal. People want intimacy. Well there are magazines and web sites for that. So occasionally, probably most rarely, will I attempt to put something down here. Not that I need something else to take up my time. (I’ve also heard blogging can be addictive) As slow as I type, this is doubtful to happen.

So, one of my clients from out of town calls the other day. He does this, as they all do, from time to time. I never know what to expect (they might have been up all night on a bender snorting coke and drinking whiskey… these conversations can go either way; other times they call to fire you… that’s one of the greatest things and the most dreaded thing, not knowing what to expect.) Well, it turns out, the contractor on the project (they just poured the foundation) has decided to leave the business. He has been offered the “job of a lifetime”. Good for him! But he has agreed to finish the exterior envelope of the building. (Exterior envelope is architect speak for the outside) Although he is not going to be at the job site to oversee what is going on, he has his guys lined up to do it. Sees it in his mind’s eye, has gone through it three times, mind you, and has informed his people how to make it happen. So my client finally gets a hold of him and he’s in the middle of delivering a baby horse. What is someone doing picking up the cell phone in the middle of delivering a baby anything? So to get to the point, this guy, the contractor, has been gone for a while, if you know what I mean.

Last Sunday, I’m set to travel to the job site. Monday, steel to be delivered and erection (of the steel) started. Schedule for the week is all in place. I get one of those phone calls. So, I ask the client, (because the contractor no longer returns my calls, not that he did very often before. This no returning of phone calls is one of my pet peeves and where I am based, Austin, Texas, there is a plethora of this. Almost a way of life. Hell it is a way of life for some. You wonder why anyone carries cell phones. I certainly wonder why I do.)

“So,” I ask my client, “what’s up with the steel?”

“Well, MJ, it would seem that the steel fabricator has to be in court for the sentencing of a family member” (Now this is after waiting on the steel for a week because of weather. )
The story is tragic. You couldn’t make this stuff up. And I’m not going to go into it for respect for the people involved, but it is truly tragic. Monday comes, Monday goes. No steel… So we wait. Waiting. Hurry up and wait the phrase goes. Something heard all to often in the industry.

I’m going to Mexico… Tequila anyone?