The Voice for Texas Architecture

Rand Elliott’s Word Paintings

For Rand Elliott, FAIA, the creative process transcends conventional divisions between artistic disciplines. For Elliott, language and architecture — the output of his professional practice — are intimately connected. 

Marfa Contemporary Gallery by Elliott + Associates Architects – photo by Scott McDonald, Hedrich Blessing

“The words arrive before the architecture,” writes Rand Elliott, FAIA, in his 2014 book, “Word Paintings.”

“Words, sentence fragments, dissimilar pairings of adjectives, and the imagining of a place yet to be created… The words liquefy and reform as an architectural spirit in time.”

Elliott’s process for transforming a 1940s-era Gulf service station into the Marfa Contemporary Gallery illustrates that process. He began with a question intended to frame his thinking; the creativity flowed from there.

What is the magnetism of Marfa? 

Those words captured the inspirations for the light-filled gallery space that simultaneously honors and draws attention to the modern art housed inside, the sparse landscape surrounding the structure, and the building’s past history.

In discussing his word paintings, Elliott draws a clear boundary between his work and conventional poetry. “Word paintings are not poems,” he says. “They are words combined to describe my own personal search and understanding of the creative process.” In fact, Elliott’s “paintings” are, as befits the architect’s core discipline, as much about form as they are about words. Font, white space, punctuation, and alignment are all critical to the integrity of the final work.

The piece below, “Between Green and Violet,” is a meditation on the color blue and illustrates that approach at its most complete. Although not tied to Elliott’s work at the gallery, the subject of the word painting resonates strongly with the brilliantly blue-lit gallery space, and offers some insight into Elliott’s deep appreciation for color as an animating force.

Word painting by Rand Elliott, FAIA

This post is online content for the May/June 2015 issue of Texas Architect.

Project ArchiTX: Castano House

Craig McMahon Architects‘ renovation and new addition to a San Antonio home responds to the South Texas climate and employs a simple materials palette to achieve continuity.

Project Castano House, San Antonio
Architect Craig McMahon Architects
Photographers Dror Baldinger and Mark Menjivar

Craig McMahon Architects’ Castano House is a subtle statement in site efficiency and maximizing an enjoyable aspect of the South Texas climate: its Gulf Coast breeze. The San Antonio-based architect approached the renovation and new addition to the home with a pared-down philosophy regarding space and materials.

The original stucco finish was stripped from the existing house, exposing the concrete structure, and a new rear concrete addition was constructed. Site orientation and passive cooling strategies maximize energy efficiency. A unique, double tilt-wall concrete panel system in the main building was furred out to increase insulation possibilities. The addition is oriented toward the south/southeast, and the numerous operable windows all allow prevailing breezes to pass through the house. Large overhangs protect interior spaces, ensuring zero heat gain from the harsh sun, even on the generous expanses of glazing — including the west-facing clerestory windows.

The sparse material palette — cool concrete tones balanced by warm hues of the salvaged Douglas fir of the built-in cabinetry and furniture — is continuous from the original home into the addition. This simplicity is carried out onto the site, where gravel and concrete stepping stones are interspersed with small areas of landscaped strips. Bamboo trees that reach over 20 ft were carefully saved during construction and now act as strategic privacy screens shielding the home from the view of the neighbors. The upper-roof deck, which is made of recycled plastic decking, offers a unique space for stargazing or dinner parties.

Concrete clads the exterior of the renovated home and its addition, creating a continuity between the buildings. – photo by Mark Menjivar

Site orientation along with natural shading and glazing strategies respond to local climate demands and maximize energy conservation and passive cooling. – top photos by Dror Baldinger; bottom photo by Mark Menjivar

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The interior finishes, including concrete floors and warm wood built-ins, continue the motif of showcasing the beauty of pared-down materials. – top photos by Dror Baldinger; bottom photo by Mark Menjivar

From the existing structure’s massive walls punctured with picturesque views to the addition’s wholly glazed walls, Castano House uses a simple palette of materials to achieve continuity. – top photo by Mark Menjivar; bottom photos by Dror Baldinger

“Project ArchiTX” is a column on the Texas Society of Architects blog that highlights outstanding architectural projects in Texas, as well as projects designed by Texas architects. The series combines an architectural narrative written by the architect with a photographic essay illustrating the features and techniques demonstrated in the design process. Is there a project you’d like to see featured in “Project ArchiTX”? Email communications@texasarchitects.org to let us know.

This article is online content for the March/April 2015 issue of Texas Architect.

Walter Humann Receives Cornerstone Award

Walter J. “Walt” Humann has had two simultaneously successful careers in Dallas. One is in business, and the other is in public service. He heads his own firm, WJH Corporation, and has held top management positions in several corporations as well as serving on both corporate and non-profit boards.

In his public service career, Humann has the quiet tenacity and perceptive vision to develop private/public partnerships to address pressing urban problems. He has spearheaded significant community improvements in the areas of transportation—reconstruction of North Central Expressway, and creation and implementation of DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit)—education, community and race relations, government reorganization, and urban planning, design, and beautification. He has applied his considerable skills and finesse to develop consensus on complex transportation issues among groups with diverse opinions.

Humann has received numerous civic awards, including the prestigious Linz Award in 1997 for his leadership in bringing North Central Expressway and DART to fruition. For over 30 years, Humann has had an ongoing, positive influence on the quality of life in Dallas and North Texas by facilitation improvements in the transportation infrastructure.

The award will be presented at the Presidents’ Gala during the Texas Architects Annual Convention in Dallas, Oct. 27-29, 2011.