Project ArchiTX: Riverview Way House

Tom Hurt Architecture toes the line between the familiarity of the traditional 1950s brick house and bold, modern volumetric additions in the Riverview Way House in Houston.

Project Riverview Way House, Houston
Architect Tom Hurt Architecture
Photographers Ryan Farnau Photography

Riverview Way House was a remodel and addition to a one-story brick, 1950s mid-century modern house our client found in the Tanglewood neighborhood in Houston. With only a couple of months to start the design and create construction drawings, the client and the architect decided early in the process to retain only the original exterior brick walls and beautiful terrazzo floors. In some ways, the original house was more of a unique building site for a new house than a remodel project. It was important to retain and give new life to the ‘historic’, low-slung brick structure, and continue with the private, inward-looking approach of the original house in relation to its surroundings. 

The architect decided on a solution where the form of the original house would be reset with three new, 21st century volumetric 'pop ups' — each clad in a 80 percent recycled rubber shingle tile — that project above the original, horizontal brick datum. Two of these additions serve as prominent space/light monitors above key interior spaces, while the third volume created a second-floor that offered program space which the original residence lacked and that the owners really needed: kids’ bedrooms, a playroom, and a home office.

Though the architect raised the ceiling in the living space, the three pop-ups were used to underplay that volumetric move and preserve the identity of the one-story original, brick house. The architect allowed the pop-ups to be discreet forms, composing them with the old brick house, which remains the basis of the project both formally and historically.

The original house utilized a series of atriums to organize private captured, exterior spaces for the master bath and dining room. The dining room atrium was strictly preserved, while the master bath's previously exterior atrium was converted into a new, interior one. The goal was to create a master suite — including bedroom, bath, closet and atrium — that was rich and complex with interior and exterior landscape qualities. 

From the living areas, the presence of the third pop-up — the second-floor bedroom bar — is apparent due to its darkly painted, plywood-veneer, which visually extends the rubber-shingle clad volume of the new construction from the outside to the inside. Inspired by the owners’ penchant for the original Star Wars movies imagery, the architect envisioned this volume as 'lowering' its stair into the living space as though it were the metal-clad landing gear of an aircraft, or the stair of an alien spacecraft. 

The brick exterior walls of the original home create a datum from which three 'pop-up' volumes protrude, creating a dichotomous visual interplay.

The master suite is characterized by an exterior-turned-interior atrium that weaves between the bedroom and bathroom, providing ample daylighting.

The futuristic staircase enclosure descends from the second level into the main living areas.

The running-bond pattern of the rubber shingles references the style in which the brick from the original residence was laid.

Riverview Way House site plan – drawing courtesy Tom Hurt

Riverview Way House first and second floor plans – drawings courtesy Tom Hurt

"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.