Tag Archives: austin

Pier drilling at the Carpenter

The big machines are out this week at the site of our Carpenter Hotel. Pier drilling has started, and these augers are boring out 36″ wide, 60′ deep holes that will soon be filled with steel and concrete. The Carpenter will feature a new four-story hotel, as well as a restaurant complex in an adjacent 1940’s-era Carpenter’s Union hall that is being renovated. The new architecture has been designed to complement the utilitarian but elegant character of the original building. We’re looking forward to seeing it take shape!


A lush vision of the American prairie has provided a century of architectural inspiration–wide open views, waving grasses, ribbons of roadways, and boundless optimism. But as aquifers dry and desertification advances, the prairie and its local landmarks begin to sponsor another reality.  The prairieHouse is designed to work in this new environment, as it adapts the ubiquitous infrastructure of the oil industry to the needs of a very different future.

Where classic “lofts” are created from disused factory buildings, the prairieHouse imagines reuse of abandoned or outmoded gas stations, with a filling station canopy providing the bones and broad shading eaves of this new form of compact living.  A new steel chassis is attached to the station’s existing columns, allowing the house’s living spaces to be suspended protectively beneath the roof, while wraparound clerestory windows allow for a bright interior, avoiding direct solar gain.  Large decks cantilevering fore and aft provide full 360-degree visibility.

The roofscape features a new deep-soil micro-prairie with below-grade irrigation to foster growth with minimal water input. Twin ventilation / water storage stacks with integrated photovoltaics make the house a showcase for renewable energy and sustainability.  Below the house, electric vehicle charging takes place where gas pumps once stood.

The prairieHouse offers a unique vision for a post-petroleum world.

Architect: Specht Harpman

Hurd Studios

We designed offices for Hurd Studios, a publications and media consulting company, within a landmarked building in Manhattan’s Soho district. The existing space was very small, and Hurd Studios space needs were large, so we employed a strategy of extreme efficiency—making every square foot count. Wall surfaces were not simply dividers between spaces, but were built out to the ceiling with files, shelving, lounge furniture, and many other functional items. Ductwork, pipes, and other utilities were exposed and woven in to the design as an integral part of the space. Offices were small, but designed with translucent panels and indirect lighting in order to make them feel large and comfortable.

The construction system was also unique, given the tight access and occupied floors below and above. A steel frame was assembled in the space, and pre-cut panels of wood, translucent fiberglass and other materials were inserted into the frame. The resulting space is warm and comfortable, while being functional and easily modifiable.

Creative use of common materials and the employment of non-typical trades, such as garment-rack welders to assemble the steel frames, allowed this complex and beautiful space to be realized within a very limited budget.

Architect: Specht Harpman
Photography: Michael Moran

Number Seventeen

This office space for a graphic design company was created within an existing loft building. We used prefabricated steel frames, and pre-cut maple shelving stock to create an inexpensive and easily modifiable workstation system that also displays the company’s large collection of graphic-design ephemera.

Architect: Specht Harpman
Photographer: Michael Moran