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Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: SAT 05/14/05
Section: STAR
Page: 1
Edition: 2 STAR

ARCHITECT'S CHALLENGE / Small spaces, big ideas / Ahome, a gallery and a carport win prizes for their innovation


eVERY year, the Houston chapter of the American Institute of Architects honors stellar examples of innovative design.

A national jury singled out 15 projects for the 2005 awards; the winners were honored at the AIA gala last month. Heres the inside scoop on three winning designs.

. . .


Bruce B. Roadcap , architect

The project: Roadcap designed a distinctive carport/workbench/storage shed next to his 1920s bungalow in the Heights. He calls it a "toolbox" because it is designed to hold lots of stuff. "Instead of trying to traditionally dress up a garage to look like a house, I decided to let it all hang out," he said.

The challenge: Space was limited. He had to squeeze a parking area for two cars between the property line and a large pecan tree. The garage is only 530 square feet, but it seems larger because nearly every inch is devoted to storage space.

The aesthetic: Roadcap used industrial materials - concrete columns, wooden beams and oversize nuts and bolts "to let the tools blend in with the architecture." Studs and trusses are placed two feet apart instead of the traditional 16 inches to allow for storing rakes and other wide tools. A corrugated-metal roof is a throwback to the 1920s style prevalent in the neighborhood.

The carport is open on three sides. Canvas, pulled tight by a series of exposed cables, covers the back. A workroom with sliding metal doors is covered in beige wood siding that matches the house. A built-in ladder leads to a small attic, where more can be stored.

The cost: About $8,000 for materials; Roadcap did most of the construction himself.

Q: Did the architect give the client anything he didn't ask for?

A: "The client was pretty picky, so he pretty much got everything he wanted," Roadcap says, laughing.

He could have extended the workshop area into the yard. "But I have three kids, so I wanted to preserve as much of the yard as possible. It worked out well."

. . .


Nonya Grenader, architect

The project: Grenader designed a modest metal house for renowned sculptor Jim Love, who lived there for about a year until his death last week. The 1,600-square-foot home has an open interior and a small loft space overlooking the first floor. A small wire-mesh gate connects the home to the studio next door.

The challenge: Two large pine trees in the back and a pecan tree in the front dictated the position of the house. "Some people might see the modest nature (of the house) as a limitation, but I saw that as an opportunity to do interesting things with affordable materials," Grenader said.

The aesthetic: Love wanted a metal exterior to fit in with the neighborhood and an open floor plan to display his work.

Grenader created a thick interior wall that runs the length of the house and provides space for artwork and books. A bedroom is tucked behind the wall on the first floor. A cutout in the wall at loft level provided another niche for more sculpture.

"The idea is to see a lot of sculpture from many different vantage points," she said.

Q: Did you give the client anything he didn't ask for?

A: "Jim was a fascinating client. He valued the process as much as the product. Working with him during the entire design process was more like working with a collaborator than a client," Grenader said.

One example: Love called Grenader from Minute Maid Park. He had wanted a low rise to the stairs, but he and Grenader couldn't determine the exact depth. "I'm at the stairs. Here it is," he told her from the baseball stadium. Grenader told him to measure the stadium stairs with his pen; they duplicated the depth in his house.

. . .


Fernando Brave, architect

The project: Brave designed a 4,200-square-foot, three-story photography gallery for Luis and Gemma De Santos. The first floor houses exhibition space; the second floor has a photo studio, darkroom and more gallery space; the third floor has a bedroom for visiting artists and a large terrace for outdoor portrait photography.

The challenge: The lot, on busy Richmond Avenue, is narrow, so "we had to get creative about parking," Brave said. He placed the building just far enough from the street to allow for two parking spaces up front. The building hugs the property line, leaving room for a driveway leading to more parking in the back. The driveway is made of crushed granite instead of asphalt to allow for better drainage and to preserve a large pecan tree.

The aesthetic: Even though the gallery is on a congested urban street, Brave created a tranquil atmosphere inside. A rectangular reflecting pool and sculpture garden runs the length of the building. Windows are at foot level to allow views of the pool from the inside and let water-reflected sunlight bounce into the gallery.

Brave also designed a separate entrance to the upper two floors, so the contemporary building can be divided into separate spaces if the owners choose.

Q: Did you give the clients anything they didn't ask for?

A: "The reflection pool was not part of the requirement," Brave said. "I wanted to have a water feature in the garden. Once you cross inside, it's very serene. The sculpture garden is a little bit of an oasis in town."

. . .


Here are the winning designers and their creations

Honor Awards

Menil House renovation, Stern and Bucek Architects

. . .

De Santos Gallery, Fernando Brave

. . .

Blossom Street House, Nonya Grenader

. . .

Royal Bank of Scotland interiors, DMJM Rottet

. . .

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing and Student Community Center, BNIM Architects, Lake/ Flato Architects

. . .

Merit Awards

Baldwin-Sussman House in Hunt, Wittenberg Oberholzer Architects

. . .

John P. McGovern Stella Link Branch Library, Bailey Architects

. . .

An Exploded Box, Peter Jay Zweig

. . .

Toolbox, Bruce Roadcap

Houston Visitors Center Explore Houston, Morris Architects

. . .

BP WOW!, Gensler

. . .

Wiess House renovation, W.O. Neuhaus Associates

. . .

Awty International Lower School, Bailey Architects Heritage Place in Conroe, Bricker + Canady, Page-SoutherlandPaige

. . .

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Fayez S. Sarofim Research Building, Institute of Molecular Medicine, BNIM Architects

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