Tag Archives: Austin architects

Preston Hollow Residence

A large, floating pavilion roof hovers over the interior and exterior rooms of our Preston Hollow house.  This design was driven by the client’s desire to blur the line between inside and outside, while also providing a sense of privacy and seclusion from the street. There are multiple courtyards defined by large, frameless sliding glass panels and rough corrugated concrete walls. The house is open and light-filled.


Water plays a large part in the design of the house, and also links the exterior and interior spaces.  Beginning at the entry, a narrow channel flows through the house to the pool area beyond.  At night, lighting within this stream casts changing patterns on the textured walls.


Architect: Specht Architects
Landscape Architect: David Hocker
Interior Design: Magni Kalman Design
Contractor: Sebastian Construction


New Canaan Residence

This home, nestled into a clearing in a lush forested landscape, was designed to be simple, elegant, and comfortable, while fully engaging its beautiful and complex site.

A winding drive brings you through the trees to arrive at an open hilltop court that is embraced by the long, low form of the house. The entry is on the second level, and as you move inside, large glass walls give a feeling of floating in the treetops. The forest canopy enfolds the interior and creates a serene space that changes with the seasons.

A staircase tucked behind a free-standing limestone fireplace leads down to the lower level of the house, which is carved into the earth and gives onto the forest floor. The cozy nature of the lower level provides an experiential contrast to the expansive and light-filled level above.

Architect: Specht Harpman
Interior Design: Carrier & Co.
Landscape Architecture: Gunn Landscape Architecture
Contractor: Prutting and Company
Photographer: Elizabeth Felicella

Sangre de Cristo House

This ridgetop house in Santa Fe is organized around two perpendicular board-formed concrete walls. The walls are an element of continuity, linking interior and exterior spaces and the landscape beyond. A narrow skylight runs the entire 125’ length of one of the walls, casting changing shadows on the rough concrete over the span of the day.


The front of the house is set deeply into the earth. You enter through a recessed courtyard and into a cool, private vestibule. An opening cut into one of the concrete walls then leads you into the main body of the house, where panoramic views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains are revealed. Although there are large expanses of glass, they are all deeply shaded by cantilevered roof forms that create porches around the perimeter.


The house enhances a feeling of connection to the site and provides a true sense of shelter.


Architect: Specht Architects
Landscape Architect: James David
Interior Design: Norine Haynes
Contractor: Wolf Corp.
Photographer: Taggart Sorensen & Casey Dunn

Casa Xixim

This villa hotel, on a narrow lot fronting a protected bay in Tulum, Mexico, is designed to be fully self-sufficient, and to work in concert with its unique site. A path leads from a mangrove marsh, through a palm grove, into a main living space that can be fully opened. The path then continues to the beach beyond. The distinction between interior and exterior dissolves, and house and site merge to become part of one continuous experience.

The upper bedrooms of the house open onto a series of terraces, both planted and habitable. The upper roof is a lounge shaded by an overhead solar array. These elevated viewpoints provide another way to experience the surrounding environment.

The house is fully self-sufficient, with photovoltaic power generation; on-site waste processing via tank digesters and an artificial wetland; and rainwater collection, storage, and pressurization systems. Passive systems are also used, with louvered doors to capture breezes, and planted roof areas to mitigate stormwater flow.

Materials used in the house were all locally-sourced, including louvered wood sliding doors, and hand-painted “pasta tiles”. Tulum-based craftsmanship is emphasized, with intricate stonework for selected walls, and site-built furnishings throughout.

Architect: Specht Harpman
Interior Design: Matthew Finalson
Photography: Taggart Sorensen

The Carpenter Hotel

Nestled into a pecan grove between the Barton Springs swimming hole and downtown, The Carpenter Hotel is a hidden oasis in one of the last pockets of Old Austin. It is a compound of buildings of different vintages surrounding a tree-shaded courtyard and pool, and features a restaurant, café, event pavilion, and 93 guest rooms. It has a character unlike any other hotel in town.

The design was driven by a sense of place; the desire to create something that is natural to its location, neighborhood, and the city as a whole. It is a new take on the idea of adaptive re-use that doesn’t mimic what was existing, or create a bright line between the “old” and the “new”, but a stealth approach that merges all the parts into a collage that feels effortless and authentic.

Almost all of the original heritage pecan trees on the site are preserved and incorporated into the design. An existing “mid-century-utilitarian” union hall for Carpenter’s Local 1266 on the site is also re-purposed as the lobby and restaurant with minimal changes. The new hotel building, shade canopies, and Quonset-hut-based pavilion have a new and distinct architectural expression, but the forms and materials are harmonious with the existing union hall and the other industrial buildings in the area. It all fits together seamlessly.

The new hotel building is composed of an exposed rough-concrete frame, with infill walls made of locally-sourced clay masonry blocks and recycled steel oil-drilling pipe. Where trees had to be removed (in all cases these were damaged or otherwise compromised), the pecan wood was sawn into boards and used as feature elements in the restaurant and lobby. Materials are expressed as-is, and decorative effect, where it exists, is created through the spacing and patterning of basic elements, or by the direct application of signage. There is no attempt to mimic historic styles, nor is there an attempt to follow architectural trends. It is simple and direct, and its power comes from this straightforward expression.

Architect: Specht Architects
Interior Design: The Mighty Union
Landscape Architecture: Pharis Design
Graphic Design: LAND
Contractor: DPR
Photography: Chase Daniel

Treetops House

The Treetops House is a renovation and major expansion of a 1955 suburban ranch house that was very typical for its time and place—a sprawling single-story, fairly nondescript affair that had small windows, and was clad entirely in Texas limestone. Our challenge was to transform this into a modern house that was bright and inviting.

We believe that the history of a place should be retained and incorporated into any new design, and preserving such elements adds depth to any renovation. With the Treetops House, we maintained the limestone perimeter wall, and added a new second level with large frameless glass windows. The interior was opened up to create double-height spaces that bring in light from above and into the center of the house.

The surrounding treescape provides a beautiful backdrop to the intimate interior spaces. Large overhangs provide shade at all times of the day, and the surrounding cladding of charred cypress prevents glare and adds a textural counterpoint. Other features include a large kitchen with countertop-height serving windows that open out onto a pool terrace and entertaining area, as well as unique built-in storage and display elements.

Landscaping is entirely comprised of native grasses and other low-maintenance plantings.

Architect: Specht Architects
Contractor: Spencer Construction
Photography: Casey Dunn

Indeed.com Headquarters

Indeed.com is a data-driven company. Information, and the flow of information is the basis of what they do. Our goal was to find a way to represent this in architectural form — to create spaces that not only give the impression of a dynamic company that is highly connected and able to react to changes with great speed, but also to creatively represent the flows of data that form the core of the company.

We were able to meet these design challenges by creating public spaces that can change dramatically. The two-story lobby space is literally wrapped in huge screens that not only line the walls, but float overhead. These screens can create a multitude of immersive environments, from a calm forest, to a torrential data stream, depending on the mood and feeling desired. The screens flow from the lobby into the café, dining area, and work areas, linking the public and private areas of the office. The graphics are reemphasized in the reflections of the glass railings, walls and storefronts.

Architect: Specht Architects in collaboration with Spector Group & STG Design
Contractor: Novo Construction
Photography: Andrea Calo and Casey Dunn

Manhattan MicroLoft

This project involved the radical transformation of a tiny, awkward apartment at the top of a six-story building. The existing apartment had only 425 square feet of floor area, but a ceiling height of over 24 feet. The new design creates a flowing interior landscape that takes advantage of this height, allowing light to spill down from above, and creating a bright, open, and comfortable home.

The architectural strategy was to create four “living platforms” that accommodate everything necessary, while still allowing open vertical space between the platforms. The spaces are stacked and interleaved, with a cantilevered bed that hovers out over the main living space, an ultra-compact bath tucked beneath the stair, and a roof garden with windows that allows light to cascade through the house. Every inch is put to use, with stairs featuring built-in storage units similar to Japanese kaidan dansu. The apartment is crafted like a piece of furniture, with hidden and transforming spaces for things and people.

Architect: Specht Harpman
Contractor: Cuadro Construction
Photography: Taggart Sorensen