What’s the WORD?

This is an experimental short film produced for the 20×2.org interactive show at SXSW. A divertimento on the poetry by Fernando Pessoa. Written, produced, scored, edited, and directed by Viviane Vives for Barcelona Films.

Shot at the Ramp House.

Ok it’s about being invisible, but draw your own damn conclusions!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “What’s the WORD?“, posted with vodpod
Title photos: “words” by Jett Butler of FöDA Studio

WoW, National AIA, WoW

[We (Oooooohhhhhhhhh)Won]

Can you BELIEVE it???

M. J. Neal Architects just won the 2008 Institute Honor Award for Interior Architecture from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

It’s a great day, it’s a great, big, fat, new…. year!!!!

This project had already won an Austin AIA Design Award and the Texas Society of Architects (TSA) Honor Design Award, and let’s not forget the International IIDA Award (my favorite, see previous post)

The anecdote? We almost didn’t submit the project! Farley Studio was doing so well at competitions that when we were done submitting it, MJ, who was hungry and tired, said, “ah, let’s blow it off and go to Asti to eat… I was hungry and tired too…but something told me to submit Anthony Nak, so I stayed on and BAM! You never know, do you?:-)

Yey for being dogheaded when I’m hungry and tired and double yey for MJ’s design excellence!!!!

Here’s the video the TSA made for the 2005 State Design Honor Award.

Scott Randall Productions by Scott Randall. emailto:sr@scottrandall.com.
Copyright 2005 by the Texas Society of Architects.

Awards the Interior Designers Way

I get bored stiff at some of the award parties that we’ve had to go to. But Chicago was fun, fast, and furious. The Interior Designers kicked some butt. This was the IIDA awards party last year… And we got to sit at the same table with Her Highness Eva Maddox. I’ve been dying to post these, but we didn’t have a blog then, so here they are. M. J. in a tux, was almost too much for me, and all the quasi-naked boys and girls didn’t cool things down any.


Interior Design Magazine Publishes us! So Much More is Happening

Interior Design Magazine features M. J. Neal Architects in their current (June) issue, now in the stands. You can read the article online
But buy the magazine to look at the incredible pictures by Jett Butler and Kenny Braun and peruse all five winners of the 2005 IIDA award.

M. J. Neal Architects has been awarded the prestigious International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Award for 2005 for its Anthony Nak project. This competition is held annually by the International Interior Design Association. This is their 32nd edition.

From hundreds of projects submitted from around the world, only five awards were given this year. The winners will be featured at the COOL 2005 IIDA’S NEOCON GALA in Chicago in June 2005 and the projects will be published in Interior Design Magazine. IIDA’s press release.

“The selected winners represent a wide range of project types. The common thread lies in their clarity of idea and the designers ability to develop that concept through the details in a clear and consistent way,” stated John Mack, IIDA, AIA, IIDAs Vice President of Communications.

Also, keep an eye out for the next issue of Residential Architect featuring M. J. Neal and his take on the materials he prefers to use in his projects.

more about “untitled“, posted with vodpod

The Anthony Nak project, designed by M. J. Neal Architects, receives first place in the 2005 Couture International Jeweler Retail Design Award by the National Jeweler and Couture International Jeweler publications. The award was presented to Anthony Camargo and David Nakard, the famed jewelry designers and owners of Anthony Nak, at the jewelery convention in Las Vegas. The Anthony Nak flagship store was chosen by an independent panel of design professionals as demonstrating excellence in design, inventive use of space, and overall quality of concept execution.

This is an elegant, subtle, space created to show exquisite designer jewelry.

Existing non-structural arches and windows were removed. These openings were altered to form new rectilinear windows and entry, enabling a dynamic street presence.

The palette is white surfaces with very subtle changes in texture. Venetian plaster on a complex curved wall, smooth gypsum board on the remaining walls and ceiling, and a Lonseal floor. A sandblasted glass wall acts as a screen for rear-projected movies of the client’s jewelry that run 24 hrs a day.

All case-work was designed by the architect: window cases are of stainless steel and glass. Free-standing floor cases, “pods,” are cherry wood, stainless steel, and glass. When open, the glass top of the pod becomes a surface to rest the jewelry on. Adjacent to the front door, a bench flows out of the ceiling.

From design work to end of construction, including case work , this 800 sq. ft. project was completed in twelve weeks.

This project also received the 2004 Citation of Honor from the American Institute of Architects, Austin and the prestigious IIDA Design award for 2005.

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, suzannepitman@kpminstitute.org, 512-467-2820 or 512-689-6109.

<a href=”http://kpminstitute.org/&#8221;kpm institute
<a href=”http://kpmapproach.org/index.php?/pages/1&#8243;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 mjneal.com
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

More Awards and Publications

Latest news:

M. J. Neal has received another TSA Award this year, his third consecutive design excellence recognition by the Texas Society of Architects. He will pick it up at the Awards luncheon on Saturday, Sept. 17th at the TSA San Antonio Convention. We will also be attending the President’s Gala on Friday.

Chris Hill, our wonderful collaborator in Dallas, received one of the only two Studio Awards. Congratulations Chris! See you there!

Latest publications:


Austin Monthly

MJ Neal’s Edmonds Residence is one of the “5 Homes We Would Move into Tomorrow” inside the current Austin Monthly, Design Issue. The team at Austin Monthly are a joy to work with. The editor, Evelyn Sher, the art director Torquil Dewar, and the super-talented writer, Becca Hensley gave us one of the best times we’ve had with publishing. Paul Bardagjy and Jordi Miralles were the photographers

“… What can we give back to the land?” is the question Neal likes to ask. So when Neal’s clients marveled that the Horseshoe Bay house he designed for them seemed “to grow from the land” he was pleased. It seems he had given something back.”

“He picks colors, he says, for their complexity and life. He could be talking about himself, for it’s the complexity and life of his vision that surely draws clients to him.”

Texas Architect

Another of our local favorites publishes MJ Neal’s work again, as a result of the TSA award to the Anthony Nak Flagship store. Lawrence Connolly, AIA writes on the design challenges posed by the existing building, the schedule, size of the space, and the client needs. The client’s perspective into the article is interesting, informative, and precise.

“Camargo credits his store’s ethereal spirit and minimalist casework as the catalysts for putting shoppers in a buying mood, and says the soft-sell approach has resulted in Anthony Nak exceeding even its most optimistic sales projections ”


M. J. Neal’s “Designer Profile” inside the current issue.


The new issue will carry an extensive article on M.J. Neal

Display and Design Ideas

“Aesthetic Showcase.”

“Anthony Nak’s Debut Store places jewelry in a clean, contemporary setting.”

Retail Design and Visual Presentation

In the past few months this magazine has featured Tsum and Byblos in Moscow, Hermes in Tokyo and Singapore, Armani in Edinburgh and Shanghai, House of Fraser in UK, assorted Moschino boutiques, etc. It will feature Anthony Nak’s store soon!

Links International publishing will include “Ramp House” in a Residential Architecture upcoming book, November 2005.