Is it rural or is it urban? This new house overlooking an escarpment occupies that liminal zone between the two—a close-in suburb in Austin that’s both lush and walkable. And, in a way, it also mediates between the built environment and the natural one, as it literally embraces the existing trees on site.
“It’s one thing to do a glass house on 50 acres,” says Kevin Alter, “and quite another to do it on a suburban site with houses all around it. The architecture has to do it through invention.” Although the site and its prospect were enviable, those existing trees were “right where you’d want to put a building.” So Alterstudio and its client, who was also the novice builder on the project, decided to engage the obstacles with the architecture.
Under the guidance of an arborist, the team determined how close the structure could come to the trees without harming them. The house, which is built on piers because of expansive soils, dances around tree roots and allows the rains to come through the ovoid apertures to water them.
Glazed and solid walls offer a similar juxtaposition of openness and closure throughout the building. “Architecture has that ability to frame and invite you to see things in a new way,” says Kevin.
“It is,” said one judge, “a refuge.”
Custom Rural or Vacation House
Constant Springs Residence
Architect: Ernesto Cragnolino, Joseph Boyle, Michael Woodland, Sara Mays, Tim Whitehill, Kevin Alter, Alterstudio Architecture LLP, Austin, Texas
Builder: Hill Capital, LLC, Austin
Landscape Architect: BDW Landworks, Austin
Structural Engineer: Scott Williamson, Structure Works, Austin
Project Size: 3,606 square feet
Site Size: 0.39 acre
Construction Cost: Withheld
Photography: Case Dunn, Leonid Furmansky
Cladding: Lueders limestone
Cooktop/Outdoor Grill: Wolf
Cooking Ventilation: Gaggenau
Decorative Hardware: FSB, Linnea, Epic, Accurate, Emtek, Valli&Valli
Door Hardware: Pemko
Faucets: Dornbracht (kitchen), Waterworks
Garage Door: Schweiss Hydraulic Door
Humidity Control: Ultra-Aire by Santa Fe
Lighting: Cooper, WAC
Ovens/Dishwasher/Specialty Appliances: Miele
Paints: Benjamin Moore
Roof Windows: VELUX
Sinks: Kohler, Mirabelle
Tile: Ann Sacks, Heath Ceramics
Tubs: Waterworks (primary), Mirabelle
Windows: VistaLuxe by Kolbe Windows & Doors