The Balcones Canyonlands is a National Wildlife Refuge located in the Texas Hill Country to the northwest of Austin. It was formed from a series of ranchland parcels to conserve habitat for endangered songbirds that are native to the area. The property on which this, a retirement home for a couple from Houston, resides is surrounded on three sides by the refuge, itself also former ranchland. The formal organization of the house grew out of several responses to the site, as well as a client request that there be just as much of an emphasis on outdoor as indoor space, considering the ample wildlife watching opportunities that exist on the property. I began with a loose interpretation of a vernacular type, colloquially referred to as a ‘dogtrot house’, which consists of two masses separated by a breezeway under a common roof. This type evolved historically out of a response to the local climate, using a highly effective passive strategy for the cooling of interior spaces. All discreet functions of the house pivot around this outdoor space, which also serves as the primary entry, and frames a view to the refuge beyond. To the south lie the main functional areas of the house: living, kitchen, dining, and master suite. A modest guest room and carport occupy the other. A deep colonnaded porch along the western exposure provides another common outdoor space for wildlife viewing, while providing another passive strategy for solar heat mitigation.
Location: Bertram, TX, US