Few cities have a growing design culture like Austin, Texas. Ranked as one of the best places to live in the United States, the city is experiencing a building boom in recent years. With a wide variety of residential styles, architects are continuing a legacy of modernist design. With an emphasis on craft and detailing, these new homes use simple geometry and forms as they open up to hills, lakes and the urban fabric.
Known as the “City of the Violet Crown” because of the glow of light across the hills after sunset, Austin is defined by a subtle beauty. The following roundup showcases the city's design aesthetic and how architects are bringing contemporary homes to life. Built with a range of hierarchies and layouts, they are often made with contrasting materials to organize views and the spaces where people come together. Inviting, modern and peaceful, they represent a localized approach to design in Texas.
The Edgeland residence is commissioned by a science fiction writer enthralled with 21st century human habitation in the urban frontiers of abandoned industrial zones. The design is inspired by the vernacular of the “pit house”, one of the oldest housing typology in North America used by Native Americans through the ages.
Balanced shade, dappled sunlight, and tree canopy views are the basis of the 518 Sacramento Drive house design. The entry is on center with the lot’s primary Live Oak tree, and each interior space has a unique relationship to this central element. Composed of crisply-detailed, considered materials, surfaces and finishes, the home is a balance of sophistication and restraint.
The site is a one acre, narrow slice of hillside just blocks above bustling South Congress Ave with tree top views of downtown. Rocks and native vegetation envelope the property, consistent with the casual, un-manicured character of its neighborhood. The solution embraces and exploits the depth and slope of the land.
LeanToo is the addition to an existing cottage situated in vibrant Austin neighborhood. The site had the original home set back from the street and bracketed by two large heritage oak trees, an active city drainage line that cut through the property, and a dry creek at the rear.
The RoadRunner Residence aims to inject new life into a classic design. The flat-roofed single story home completed in 2014 looks as if it is floating, nestled comfortably within the trees of the Texas hill country.
The opportunity to live simultaneously in the center of the city and in an isolated refuge presented a powerful circumstance for this family of four. Within a very ordinary neighborhood, this home is oriented to take maximum advantage of the unexpected escarpment, creek and natural views offered at the rear of the property.
This new 2500sf house, designed by architectural practice Thoughtbarn, is nestled within a grove of heritage live oak trees on a 3/4 acre lot in the Barton Hills neighborhood of Austin, TX. The wooded, hilly neighborhood was subdivided in the fifties and is populated with ranch-style houses clad in rugged limestone veneers.
Like a butterfly specimen pinned to its mounting, this sinuous lake-front home’s light floating roofs are anchored to its site by heavy rusticated limestone masses, while its horizontal footprint is spread out and sewn through the vertical punctuation of mature sycamore, cypress and pecan trees. The resulting form reflects the organic character of its site.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on May 18th, 2020 and updated on December 13th, 2021.