Patterns of Peru

We have just returned from a truly inspirational journey through the Incan heart of Peru. Andean architecture is represented here from pre-Inca ruins through the modern day, bustling and chaotic capital city of Lima district.  

Interior to Peru, along the Inca Trail you can board a train in the sacred valley (Valle Sagrado) or attempt the four day hike to the famous ruins of Machu Piccu. We took the train :-)

Cusco was heart of the Incan Empire with the grand archeological sites to prove it. The significance of this colonial city endures as it is the cultural center of today's Andean people as well.

Starchitects in the Houston Sky

Top Left, Completed in 1962, the Humble Oil and Refining Co. building is an elegant example of the International Style. Pronounced shades protect all sides of the glazing from the blistering Texas sun. Welton Becket and Associates, of Capitol Records Tower, LA fame and also responsible for the Xerox tower in Rochester, NY is credited for the design. The tower, located at 800 Bell was recently sold as Exxon Mobil vacated the building for their new digs in the Woodlands, TX. We'll see what the new owners have in store for the tower.

Top Right, I.M. Pei and Partners penned this five-faced skyscraper completed in 1982. It stood as the tallest tower west of the Mississippi river until 1990. The 60th floor boasts an observation deck open to the public with expansive views of the Galleria, Texas Medical Center and points west and south. The ground level plaza is home to a towering Joan Miro sculpture auspiciously placed opposite Jones Hall and the downtown theater district.

Bottom Left, Louvered shading returned to the Houston Skyline with the addition of architect César Pelli's second tower for the now infamous Enron Corporation. Completed in 2002, Pelli lamented his involvement in high-rise architecture feeling deep sadness as a result of the September 11 attacks. His buildings are noted for their light-filled spaces and this modernist tower is no exception. Passing under his circular skybridge crowning the intersection of Smith and Bell Streets is a particular urban thrill.

Bottom Right, Two ubiquitous skyscrapers form a glass canyon along Lamar Street in downtown Houston. In latter half of the 20th century, the city's central business district became a laboratory for fame seeking design firms. Phillip Johnson's Pennzoil Place, located at 711 Louisiana Street garnered him the Pritzker Prize in Architecture in 1979 and brought international attention to Houston's architectural scene. Johnson, and partner John Burgee would later add the post-modern styled Bank of America Center to the skyline; evoking Dutch Gothic canal house architecture rendered in 56 floors.




By Hand is Better

I relish the opportunity to draw by hand. It's not always art, but oftentimes a hand drawing can convey so much with so little. One recent weekend I dedicated a Saturday to the process. I began with a rough 3D model of a home generated with Autocad. I overlaid a photo of trees and landscape to create a sense place.

After completing my hand drawn lines, I returned to the digital domain. With the help of Adobe Photoshop, I added in textures shadows and color. The results are not intended to be photorealistic, but instead convey deign intent. I like leaving a little room for interpretation. What do you think?

Protecting a Legacy Tree

How do you thread a new residence amongst some of the most stunning live oaks in South Austin? Carefully. This site is home to a tree categorized by the City of Austin as a "Legacy" tree. Read more about the classifications here.

Essentially this oak measures 40+" in diameter at the base. The imposing canopy covers a vast majority of the site creating a cool respite that evolves through the movement of the day's sun. Neighboring this impressive specimen near the rear of the site are two more protected live oaks measuring 20" and 23" in diameter.

Working with the city arborist, our strategy for preserving the trees began with the decision to leave in place the existing 50 year-old slab. Our collective belief is that the root systems of the live oaks are tied to the structure of the slab - and have thrived in coexistence.

The three components of tree protection during construction are 1.) protective fencing, 2.) mulching ground covering at the tree base, and 3.) trunk wrapped protection of wired-in-place 2x4s. Our construction team is also working with a certified arborist on deep-root feeding and watering during construction. Read more about tree protection here.

We recognized early on that the greatest asset of this site was also the one requiring the longest time investment - mature and inspiring trees. Check back for updates on the construction progress, as we weave a modern treehouse into the majestic canopies of native Central Texas live oaks.