Dancing About the Mulberry Trees

in 2003 we were asked to submit ideas for an Art Forum and Community Center in Annaka, Japan… Our design was centered about the Mulberry trees we were gonna plant, hundreds of them.

See if you can spot the kids with balloons and the dog (in the sketches.)

MJ and I have gone into macrobiotics lately, we are also learning Japanese cooking, of course, MJ has always been obsessed with Japan… You should see his Japanese collection of books. It’s just delicate and beautiful.

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The House that Will Never be.

(Yet another one) For all those people that think the project on south 5 st, in Bouldin, is ours, no it isn’t! This is the house we had designed and permitted for South 5 St and that was never built.This was actually the second design for this extremely difficult lot. We posted the first design a while ago…

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Twin Peaks Explained

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Twin Peaks Project – Two Single Family Urban/Suburban Residences

There seems to be a few questions about Twin Peaks on Apartment Therapy. I guess we can answer them here… Yes, the central piece seems to float off the walls. It’s structure is attached to the wall by brackets. Since the houses are not big, it allows for the eye to travel in between and it creates a much “lighter” feeling.

The finish on the center folding piece is a type of catalyzed polyurethane, it’s like a lacquer, though it is NOT technically a lacquer.

Here’re the pics we have and a wonderful article about the house by Kris Krager, a colleague, who wrote the article for an issue of Texas Architect, when the project won a State Award (TSA) I would link to the article but it’s not online anymore!

Urban/Suburban Hybrid by Chris Krager, Assoc. AIA

PROJECT: Twin Peaks, Austin ARCHITECT: M.J. Neal Architects PROJECT TEAM: M.J. Neal, AIA; Thomas Bercy; Powei Chen; Joseph Winkler; Justin Rumpeltes; Viviane Vives CONSULTANT: Jerry Garcia (Structures) PHOTOGRAPHERS: Viviane Vives; M.J. Neal

Two Austin townhouses defy increasing density and create space on a constrained suburban site.

Like many other American cities, Austin has seen a significant increase in central city development in the past five years. The realization that Austin cannot sustain the continued stretching of its urban infrastructure has led to such initiatives as Smart Growth and Traditional Neighborhood Development. These initiatives have led to relatively low-risk residential development guided primarily by builders erecting traditional housing or “soft-loft” projects priced at the top end of the market.

However, instead of relying solely on the high-end of the economic spectrum, cities such as Austin have the opportunity to deal with – economically, architecturally, and socially – the urban phenomenon of centripetal growth with innovative residential typologies. Moreover, placing suburban houses in quasi-urban environments is essentially irresponsible and results in a lost opportunity for more creative solutions.

With his Twin Peaks project, M.J. Neal, AIA, set out to challenge the unimaginative builder model with a “urban/suburban hybrid.” The problems he faced are neither unique to Austin nor without historical precedent (think of Arabian courtyard houses and urban townhouses): How to design stand-alone single-family residences with the amenities of the suburban home within neighborhoods of increased density, and how to provide residents a comfortable level of isolation on a constrained site while allowing controlled engagement with the public realm?

To successfully address these issues, a building must become an exercise in spatial economy. This Neal accomplished in Twin Peaks with choreographed movement around articulated service masses. The two buildings are essentially vertical tubes with which Neal has taken an additive/subtractive approach. Additive is service function (the central stair/storage element) and subtractive are the moments of respite (screened porches and decks). Surprisingly, while these are not large buildings (1,600 sf of air-conditioned space and 1,000 sf of exterior space), they accommodate much more than one would expect.

Neal assembled this new typology with innovative technologies – SIPS panels, steel/mdf cabinets, catalyzed polyurethane finishes, high-velocity HVAC system, and boat-building plywood, to name a few – and off-the-shelf materials that he customized to varying degrees. Continue reading