• Constructed from humble materials, the project is nonetheless sophisticated. Photo by Casey Dunn.

Location Dripping Springs
Client Mackintosh Partners
Architect Max Levy Architect
Design Team Max Levy, FAIA; Clint Brister, AIA; Tom Manganiello, AIA;
Matt Morris; Michael Smoldt
Photographers Casey Dunn; Max Levy

Max Levy, FAIA, the architect of Prospect House, has been interested in architecture that is attuned to the elements and to the passage of time. He speaks affectionately of buildings that make us aware of the environment and its nuances — the intensity of light, the movement of the wind, the changing of the sky.

He has talked about the first time that he visited the Kimbell, in Fort Worth, while it was still under construction, and how the slot openings on the roof of the structure somehow heightened the otherwise unremarkable passing clouds in the sky on an unremarkable day. It was an experience that the then young architect would never forget. Ever since, Levy’s buildings have constantly surprised us by bringing into focus what is most elemental — and often most overlooked — about our surroundings: light, wind, sky, water.

No surprise, then, that the jurors quickly understood how well Prospect House connects with and responds to its landscape, context, and environment. Juror Julie Snow, FAIA, observes: “To take this Hallmark-greeting-card kind of event and to turn it into something that is much crisper and much more inventive and much more connected to the landscape, I thought was just fantastic.”

Prospect House changes the paradigm of what wedding chapels, or rental event spaces, are supposed to be like. Out in the country, with not much more than native vegetation (artfully curated by landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck) and the distant horizon for company, “it is a kind of reinvention of a typology that we wouldn’t expect,” says juror David Miller, FAIA. “This one is a very simple, elegant, white linear set of spaces that are economically framed with a simple structure, but beautifully choreographed in terms of spatial links and also in response to the landscape. The exposed structure with the trusses in the reception space – it’s just a beautiful space,” Miller says.

Deceiving in its simplicity, Prospect House is sophistication built out of humble materials, reflecting its modest budget. Levy, in fact, says that this is one of the not-so-common projects where “architectural aspirations, program, and budget all aligned.” Client and architect very quickly agreed that they would “let the building be in scale with itself and do what the budget allows.”

The venue is now booked through 2018 for weddings and receptions, a clear testament to its success. Intended to “allow the user to engage with the architecture, instead of the architecture dictating what to do,” Levy says. “You don’t have to do too much to make it your own.” The many poetic ways that revelers appropriate the building — by decorating the glass test tubes attached to the wall with ever-changing local wild flowers, for instance — is proof of its versatility.

Last, but not least, the outdoor photo frame for happy newlyweds also frames the horizon in the far distance. Levy quips, “What could be more symbolic of hope in the future than the horizon itself?”

Eurico R. Francisco, AIA, is a design principal at HDR Architecture in Dallas and a contributing editor to Texas Architect.

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