2022 AIA Housing Awards: West Campus Residence by Alterstudio and Mell Lawrence Architects

After leaving a cherished modernist residence they called home for more than a decade, the architects and owners of this project purchased a student rental on an unusual 80-foot-wide lot. While it accommodates their growing family, which includes a set of twins, this home also offers a compact and efficient space that is tuned to its natural surroundings. 

“This project is a refreshing departure from most over-scaled homes in this category.” – Jury comment

Austin’s West Campus neighborhood plan offers a mix of housing types, carefully balancing single-family residences with high-rise multifamily buildings closer to the University of Texas campus. The architects’ deep knowledge of and commitment to the neighborhood assisted their purchase of the rental and supported a partnership with neighbors in obtaining a variance to subdivide the property into two thin lots. While modest in terms of density increase, the subdivision brings new families to this quickly transforming neighborhood. 

“This project is a refreshing departure from most over-scaled homes in this category,” noted the jury. “It is a model for living comfortably with less while still championing quality and elegance.”

Throughout, the home underscores that compact living is an exercise in distilling spatial concepts to create an ensemble both efficient and generous. Its first floor is neither a warren of undersized spaces nor a contiguous great room. Instead, a series of spaces are both linked and differentiated by their architectural elements. Glazing that wraps the first floor disappears into the surrounding construction, seamlessly connecting interior and exterior spaces. Above, a larger second floor that provides each child with their own room also has a series of porches that engage with the street at the front of the home and offer privacy at its rear. 

“It is a model for living comfortably with less while still championing quality and elegance.” – Jury comment

The lower level takes advantage of its position beneath the tree canopy, its tempered daylit environment an important respite from the often-oppressive Texas sun. It is darker and more tactile than the second floor, with soapstone counters, mill-finished steel paneling, and white oak throughout. The second floor, by contrast, is the lower level’s bright counterpoint. Its bedroom windows project beyond the floor and ceiling, giving its occupants a sense of spilling out into the surroundings. There, smooth-finish drywall prevails, while oak flooring and limited steel create a link to the spaces below. 

Overall, this home eschews housing trends that dominate other nearby Austin neighborhoods. At just 1,922 square feet, it easily accommodates a family of five through a series of inventive solutions that support spatial efficiency and generosity.  

West Campus Residence

Architect: Alterstudio Architecture, LLP and Mell Lawrence Architects

Owner: Ernesto Cragnolino & Krista Whitson  

Location: Austin, Texas

Category: One- and Two- Family Custom Residences

Additional information

General Contractor: Green Places (Alex Ferdman)    

Geotechnical Engineer: Capital Geotechnical Services (Nicholas F. Kauffman,  MS, PE)    

Mechanical Engineer: Positive Energy (Kristof Irwin)    

Structural Engineer: Duffy Engineering (Dennis Duffy, PE)    

Civil Engineer: Prossner and Associates, Inc. (Kurt Prossner, PE)

Photography: Casey Dunn


Etty PadmodipoetroAIA, Chair, Urban Idea Lab, Boston  

Kenneth LukerAIA, Perkins Will, Durham, N.C.

Marica McKeel, AIA, Studio MM Architect, New York  

Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times, San Francisco

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.