Around Town

Modern Homes Tour – February 2nd

The 2013 Modern Homes Tour of Austin, an open house featuring numerous modern homes, is this weekend.  More info here, and you can purchase tickets here.

Is Downtown Austin’s Westgate Tower Mid-Century Modern Enough To Be Historic?

I thought it would be timely to highlight a battle over landmarking a MCM tower in downtown Austin.

The Westgate Tower, perhaps the best example of a mid-century high-rise in Austin, has applied for Historic zoning. The Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) voted to approve their application.

The HLC is of the opinion that the Westgate “…is an excellent example of the New Formalism in the modern movement of architecture in the 1960s…”

Landmarking would cut the property tax bill by nearly 2/3. That money is supposed to be reinvested in the property to upkeep its historic nature.

Many Austinites think that’s baloney and the owners will just pocket the money.  HLC’s decision to recommend historic zoning for Westgate Tower to the City set off a public controversy.

Something that is clearly interesting here is the building’s ties to Fehr & Granger.

From the City staff report: “The Westgate Tower was designed by internationally-known New York architect Edward Durell Stone in 1962; the building was completed under the supervision of prominent local architects Fehr and Granger in 1966.”

And continues… “Ed Stone hired the prominent local architectural firm of Fehr and Granger to oversee the construction of the building. Fehr and Granger were locally known for their mid-century modern residential designs, and although Stone designed the exterior, Fehr and Granger were responsible for the details.”

The HLC’s background material is an interesting read (pdf).


2012 AIA Homes Tour – October 6th and 7th

7003 Shoal Creek by Webber + Studio (photography by Atelier Wong)

Checkout the 2012 AIA Homes Tour website

This year’s featured architects include:

  • AlterStudio Architects, LLP
  • Burton Baldridge Architects, Inc.
  • CG&S Design-Build
  • Clayton & Little Architects
  • Cornerstone Architects
  • FAB Architecture
  • Furman + Keil Architects
  • Rick & Cindy Black Architects
  • Heimsath Architects
  • Murray Legge, AIA / LZT Architects Inc.
  • Stephen Zagorski, Architect
  • Tim Cuppett Architects
  • Webber + Studio, Architects

The Edgeland House by Bercy Chen

Located in East Austin on Red Bluff Rd, the Edgeland House is built into the earth.

“…on a rehabilitated brownfield, this project is a modern re-interpretation of one of the oldest housing typologies in North America, the Native American Pit House. Typically sunken, The Pit House takes advantage of the earth’s mass to maintain thermal comfort throughout the year.”

Project info



Giles eclectic living room
by austin photographer Kara Mosher

Not much new on the MLS this week.  Checkout architect Francisco Arredondo’s (North Arrow Studio) condo/home in French Place. (via Houzz)

photos contemporary bathroom


AIA 2012 Design Awards

Elizabeth House by Alterstudio

Elizabeth House by Alterstudio © Whit Preston

AIA 2012 Design Awards Flickr Set.

Out of 123 entries from local firms, AIA Austin recognized several of our favorite architects/designs, including Miró Rivera, Alterstudio’s Elizabeth house, and KRDB’s Heywood Hotel.

Residence 1446 - Miro Rivera Architects

Residence 1446 - Miro Rivera Architects © Paul Finkel Photography

East Side Airstream

Need a change of pace, or a one night staycation?  Checkout this remodeled Airstream on the East side.


The Heywood Hotel – new, modern, boutique, hotel

There’s a new, modern, boutique hotel in Austin – the Heywood Hotel.  It’s along the lines of Kimbermodern, but less expensive.  Check out their website HERE and facebook page HERE.  FYI the design is that of KRDB.

Let’s hear it for local family owned businesses with modern flair!

A few pics below to spark your interest:

Just for fun – some blogs focused on building modern in austin

Here are some build blogs I check out pretty regularly.  I particularly like Austin Cubed as it’s a real life couple going through a real life process of building a modern home in central Austin.  Feel free suggest other blogs you know of in the comments section of this entry.

Austin Cubed






Modern Homes Tour Austin – February 4

The annual Modern Homes Tour of Austin (aka – an organized open house featuring numerous modern homes for sale in Austin) is just around the corner.  Click HERE for more info.

New Architecture in Austin (AMOA event)

More info.

some numbers

In the previous post, this comment was made:

(context: this was in response to another comment saying it was a buyers market.)

Think so? Even though buy-vs–rent-ratios are so out of whack?…and despite that homes are still listing for double what they sold for ten years before?

On a very early morning drive this AM to the airport I was wondering what the numbers really were.  I know housing pricing hasn’t doubled in raw numbers in the past 10 years and what about the average income, that has surely increased as well?  And interest rates, outside of income that is one of the biggest impacts on buyer’s purchasing power.

Here is what I found.

  • Median home price growth, 2000 to 2010:  +31%
  • Median household income, 2000 to 2010:  +25%
  • Median home price to income ratio growth 2000 to 2010:  +4.5%  (2.45 to 2.56)
  • Average interest rate, 30 year mortgage conventional, 2000 to 2010:  - 3.37%
This sum of that basically is that it the cost of buying of home for the median is just over 1% more expensive in terms of purchasing power now than it was 10 years ago.
Now if you go back to 1990, that is where you see the big change.  The numbers argue that it was between 1990 and 2000 when Austin become less affordable (at least as measured as ratio of income spent).
  • Median home price growth, 1990 to 2000:  +98%
  • Median household income, 1990 to 2000:  +49%
  • Median home price to income ratio growth, 1990 to 2000:  +32%  (1.85 to 2.45)
  • Average interest rate, 30 year mortgage conventional, 1990 to 2000:  - 2.12%

Here we see a 30% rise in the cost of buying a home.

Let’s thank our lucky (lone) star that we are not like SF or California as a whole.  Even after the ‘crash’, the income to home price ratio for SF  is 4 times what it is here and 2.6 times for the state as a whole (including the vast wastelands of places like the island empire).

Within a more recent analytic window, we have seen income growth outstrip home price growth since 2007.  Median incomes are up 6%, median home price is up 2% and interest rates have improved by 1.65 points.  That means housing is 5.35% more affordable than it was 2007.

Reference data:

2Modern’s (Modern) Austin City Guide

Adrienne put together a nice little guide to modernish places to visit in the city.  It is also a handy guide where to avoid during the annual locust season that is SXSW.  :)

2Modern’s Austin City Guide

“How Austin lives now”

Fake trend article* in the Statesmen about how people are “demanding smaller, greener, more contemporary homes”.  Quotes from Jay Hargrave, Dick Clark, Hugh Randolph, and Mark Lind (CG&S).  Pictures from a few homes we’ve featured a few times this year.

Perhaps I am jaded but all I hear is the same talk of opening of living space that has gone on since the 50s.  Many of the quotes sound like they could be lifted from the Eichler books I have.  Yes, there does seem to be an renewed interest in these principles.  I am thrilled about that.  My concern remains that it will remain niche and reserved to the premium market.  The cost premium has undermined widespread adoption of “smaller, greener, more contemporary” building principles before.   Tellingly, this article  steers well wide of that topic.

*Fake trend articles are made famous by the NY Times which make sweeping statements about the changing trends yet offer no actual data save a few choice quotes.  I always picture them as the result of idle chatter over a few drinks.

Baldridge Home

Feature in the NY Times about this lovely Austin home.



Event Reminders

Don’t forget that this Friday is Modern Austin’s 1st (timeframe not defined) Meet-up.   6pm @ San Jose Hotel.  Right now, it looks like the weather will be very lovely for outdoor drinks and conversation.

This weekend is the AIA Austin Homes Tour.  Homes by Alter Studios, Dick Clark, Cottam Hargrave, CG&S, among others.

1st (timeframe not defined) Modern Austin Meet-up

photo by davisayer

When I first moved to Austin, the forum at LiveModern was my entry point into what was going on locally.  The forum nowadays is a ghost town for the most part.  One of the lasting impacts (for me at least) were the semi-regular meet-ups that occurred.  It was through there I meet people like Chuck Voelter (artist, Stenger fan extraordinaire), Mark Meyer, Karen Pittman, among others.  That lead, in part, to me starting which through I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many more great people.

So now that the season of death rays is drawing to close, I think it is time we revive this tradition.

1st (timeframe not defined) Modern Austin Meet-up

  • Date:  Friday, Oct 1st, 2010
  • Time:  6pm to 8pm
  • Location:  San Jose Hotel (click for map)*

For the first one, I think a casual evening of drinks and chit chat is a good place to start.  If this is something people like, and only a modest amount of blood and tears are shed, I have some ideas for topical / event style meet-ups (tour a house with the architect / builder, etc).

*If the weather looks like it won’t cooperate, I will announce an indoor location a few days before hand.

AIA Austin Tour 2010

The 2010 AIA Austin tour is October 2-3.  Another great line-up including:

Alterstudio Architects, LLP
Bercy Chen Studio, LP
CG&S Design-Build
Chris Lewis Architects
Cottam Hargrave
Dick Clark Architecture
Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects
John Mayfield Architect
James D. LaRue Architects
Nick Deaver Architect
Third:Land, Inc.
Webber + Studio

Of particular interest is the Cottam Hargrave place (pictured).  Long time readers may remember that the owners requested input on the design from modernaustin readers.   Additional feedback came in over at (thankfully my readers don’t require bribing).  More pictures on the completed project can be found over at

Tickets will go on sale September 1st.  Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the weekend of the tour.  Tickets may be purchased by credit card at AIA Austin and by cash/check at Zinger Hardware and 5 Elements Furniture.

smaller in texas

Since the MLS isn’t providing much new lately, here is a dwell photo essay called “smaller in texas” feature a container guesthouse in San Antonio.  While shipping container as an architectural base isn’t particularly new, it really has taken off in the later half of the past decade.

Mark Meyer has received plenty of positive review for his La Boite Cafe design (it certainly helps that the cafe is itself is quite good on the food & drink front as well) and is now working on sushiBox.

Mueller Tower

Update in the Stateman on the plans to restore the Mueller air traffic control tower.

1815 Dexter – AD Stenger

Great photo blog of one man’s journey remodeling an AD Stenger home.  Looks like it is coming along nice and can’t wait to see it mostly finished (no home is ever ‘finished’ it seems).  Above is the ‘before’ picture, I believe.

1815 Dexter Blog

Tour de Zidell

The common thread between the Tour de France and the Lundgren & Mauer home (located in Taylor, Tx) is one Brent Humphreys.   Brent has put together a nice website on the history of the home:  The Zidell House.

Brent is an amazing photographer with a long history of cycling photography.  For this year’s tour he put together a great photolog:  Project Le Tour (warning, flash website).

PS.  Brent if you read this, I still get your mail, you may want to update your address again :)


Tour de Zidell

The common thread between the Tour de France and the Lundgren & Mauer home (located in Taylor, Tx) is one Brent Humphreys.   Brent has put together a nice website on the history of the home:  The Zidell House.

Brent is an amazing photographer with a long history of cycling photography.  For this year’s tour he put together a great photolog:  Project Le Tour (warning, flash website).

PS.  Brent if you read this, I still get your mail, you may want to update your address again :)


Dollahite House by Rural Theory

You may recall that this house was for sale about 18 months ago (and didn’t last long on the market).   Apparently, it was featured in Dwell the prior fall.  Here is the article and picture show from Dwell.

Many more additional pictures and info at Rural Theory (owners, designers and builders)

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