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.