Architect Alterstudio Architecture
Design Team Kevin Alter; Ernesto Cragnolino, FAIA; Tim Whitehill; Michael Woodland, AIA; Daniel Shumaker, AIA
Photographers Casey Dunn
Located on an expansive site in the hills of West Austin, the Tumbleweed Residence’s abstracted, undulating stucco masses stand in contrast to the more tactile nature of the interior’s steel, concrete block, and wood finishes. Careful detailing and craftsmanship illuminate qualities inherent in the home’s simple material palette.
“The Tumbleweed Residence stood out not only for its use of masonry, but also [for] the fact that those two volumes really create a very beautiful sculpture,” Vivian Lee says. “We loved that it follows the Texan shed typology but re-dresses it with this new material that is quite thick. You can see it in the way that they address the windows, which are far recessed from the face of the building.” Lee’s favorite detail, however, was the ordered way in which the standing seam roof meets the undulating stucco walls: with a clean finish that allows the masses to sing as sculptural volumes.
Evidence of the craftsman’s hand is found throughout the Austin home: in the welds of the custom steel windows; in the tool marks of the waxed hot-rolled steel panel at the kitchen island, and in the hand-turned walnut seats of the barstools.
“This was a project that was the counterpoint to many of the houses where we saw a more constructivist exterior and then the interiors were stripped of details and very homogenized,” says juror Anne Schopf, FAIA. Instead, the Tumbleweed Residence carves out a somewhat uniform — though beautiful — exterior shape, displaying its “tectonics” on the interior, in the form of a layered wall, for which the concrete block forms the basic structure with modest insertions of fireplace and detailing. “We saw a lot of very Miesian houses, and I think this struck us as a different vocabulary. The softness of those exterior forms [was] a relief to a lot of the hard-edged vocabulary that we’re seeing throughout many of the entries. That may be why it initially stood out to us, but as we looked deeper at the project — even studying the elegant and restrained plan — we really couldn’t find any place where it was out of step.”
Anastasia Calhoun, Assoc. AIA, works at Overland Partners in San Antonio.