Austin-based architectural photographer Patrick Wong, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture, asked the firm Cottam Hargrave for help in designing and building a live/work space on land he had purchased years ago from his grandfather. “The lot had become the neighborhood dump,” says Wong. “There’s a convenience store about 100 yards away, and it takes someone about that distance to finish a 32-ounce beer and throw it into the pile,” he says with a laugh, adding that he spent every weekend for a year removing 60 truckloads’ worth of bottles, cans, bags of trash—even a car bumper—from the site before it was empty enough to pour the slab.
The architects, led by principal Jay Hargrave, designed a simple, 1,700-square-foot structure that begins as a one-story at the entrance façade then rises to a second story at the back to accommodate the bedroom loft area. In the design phase, he and Wong, who initially asked for a bachelor pad, remained especially cognizant of the extreme sun exposure at the site, and planned accordingly. The angled roof protects the occupants—Wong, his wife, preschool teacher and amateur artist Cherry Li and her teenage daughter, Jasmine—from extreme midday sun, but the meticulously placed windows allow plenty of bright, constantly shifting light in throughout the day.
“Patrick wanted a very efficient, well-built house, and the program is fairly straightforward,” says Hargrave. “The way he lives his life is intrinsically sustainable, so it was necessary to create something in which every bit of space would be well-utilized.” Wong adds that he admires the flexibility of Japanese architecture and interior space, and relies on being able to use the main, open space downstairs “as a photography studio, a living room or even a dance floor if we ever feel like it.”