When a nature-loving, Austin couple came across a half-acre site dotted with mature trees in 2014, they instantly fell in love despite knowing that the trees’ extensive root systems would pose a significant design challenge.
To find the right architect, the couple attended that year’s AIA Austin Homes Tour, where they were introduced to a residence designed by A Parallel Architecture that was so compelling they immediately contacted the firm’s co-owners, Eric Barth and Ryan Burke, on the hunch that the architects would be the perfect fit for their challenging project.
The couple’s intuition was correct. Barth and Burke not only assured their clients that they could carefully design around all of the trees on the property, but also that they would craft a home that emphasized indoor/outdoor living without sacrificing privacy.
"We sought to design indoor and outdoor rooms simultaneously, placing an equal emphasis on the landscape design and the architecture," explain the architects, who note that building the home around a large courtyard was also a top design priority.
Located within a walled compound, the 2,902-square-foot home feels like a private oasis despite its central location in an Austin suburb. The living spaces open directly onto a sheltered courtyard that’s protected on the north and south sides by a pair of low-slung bedroom wings. A large outdoor pool and guest suite are located at the rear of the rectangular lot.
"While the property is quite large, the clients were looking for a modestly sized home," note the architects. "So, an early challenge was designing a small house that could be configured to capture and control outdoor space in order to amenitize the property. We pushed ourselves to maximize the degree to which this small footprint could offer the seemingly contradictory features of privacy, openness, intimacy, and expansiveness."
Key to achieving those features was crafting a home that could be comfortably enjoyed, indoors and out, year-round. As with all their projects, the architects began with an extensive program survey and rigorous site analysis that informed the U-shaped building footprint, which weaves through the towering oak and pecan trees and takes advantage of seasonal shading while protecting root zones.
Also integral to the design was the floating canopy structure that shelters the outdoor living spaces from the intense Texas climate and helps channel prevailing breezes. Minimalist and elegant, the canopy structures gave rise to the project’s name, Canopy House.
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"Given the hot Texas climate, these deep shaded patios with generous connections to the indoors are enjoyable year-round and nearly double the amount of living space in the home," explain the architects. The project was the recipient of a 2019 American Architecture Award.
Builder/ General Contractor: Miars Construction
Structural Engineer: Bufkin Engineering
Landscape Design Company: A Parallel Architecture/ Spencer Landscape and Design
Cabinetry Design/ Installation: Tim Cuddy
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