Lake|Flato’s Hog Pen Creek Residence, featured in the September/October 2014 issue of Texas Architect, has been honored with a 2016 AIA Housing Award. The project is one of 10 across the country being honored, and the only one in Texas. This is not the first award for the project, which has also received AIA San Antonio’s 2013 Merit Award and a 2014 TxA Design Award.
The house, a harmonious combination of wood, concrete, and glass, sits on the shore of Lake Austin. A boardwalk runs the length of the house and out to a guest suite and a glass pavilion on the lake. The home was designed so that no existing trees needed to be removed, a challenge compounded by the unique shape of the property. Brian Comeaux, AIA, a Lake|Flato Associate who worked on the project, describes the project constraints: “The property is an hourglass shape that necks down where Hog Pen Creek crosses through it. It was heavily restricted with flood plains and heritage tree guidelines to protect the roots of the trees. All of these guidelines restricted the site from five acres to one quarter of an acre. The house almost designed itself. The restrictions gave us an L-shaped buildable area that we designed the house around.” Numerous windows take advantage of the view of the lake from every angle. The house is situated to facilitate the owner’s triathlon training and is intimately connected to the outdoors.
Indeed, when asked about his favorite aspect of the project, Comeaux immediately chose the property’s unique pool. The owner desired a 75-foot lap pool to aid in his training for events such as the Iron Man. Once again, the property’s restrictions made fitting such a pool on the site a challenge. The architects eventually placed it on the east side of the house, making it possible to see water from every direction, due to the home’s proximity to both the creek and Lake Austin. “The pool is three feet higher than the kitchen/living/dining area," Comeaux says. "When you’re standing in the house, the water level of the pool is about waist high—you really look right into the pool. It makes his swim training part of the everyday experience.”
When Frederick R. Steiner wrote about the house in Texas Architect, he commented: “Lake|Flato has mastered turning site constraints into design opportunities. The house embodies and reflects the deep structure of the place as well as the minimalist aesthetic of the graphic designer client: High nature is married to high design.” Indeed, Hog Pen Creek embodies several of the hallmarks of Lake|Flato’s process, including a deep understanding of the integration between house and landscape. On visits to the house after construction had been completed, Comeaux says he noticed that the owners often keep many of the doors and windows open, allowing the breeze to blow through the house, and further connecting the interior to the environment. For Lake|Flato, the Hog Pen Creek Residence project was not completed when building was done. Instead, they continued to monitor the house and change the way it consumed energy, improving its operations and sustainability.
As for how the team celebrate their AIA Housing award: with a low-key evening of pizza and beer.
To learn more about Lake|Flato, read about the firm's efforts to use data to improve its sustainable building techniques in the January/February 2016 issue of Texas Architect.