“Don’t waste time; don’t be scared; don’t wait; and don’t live distracted,” is the advice that Erick Darbo Diaz, AIA — cofounder, along with Carolina Civarolo, AIA, of ORANGE MADE in McAllen — gives to young architects considering starting their own practice.
Civarolo, born in Argentina and raised in Houston, and Diaz, born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, met at the University of Houston during their second year of architecture school. They fell in love while they were both interning in Barcelona — Civarolo at Enric Miralles + Benedetta Tagliabue and Diaz at Oscar Tusquets Blanca. Two years out of school, they were living in separate cities, working in different offices, and decided to do a small project together on the side. During the construction phase, Erick proposed, and Carolina moved to the Rio Grande Valley.
In 2005, the couple started a design firm dedicated to design-build, graphic design, and web design. Their first major project was a 2,400-sf spec home on Orange Street in McAllen meant to showcase thoughtful modern infill in a place where gated suburban cul-de-sacs were all the rage.
The crash of the market just as construction was wrapping up forced them to adapt. Civarolo and Diaz bought the house from their firm, which they closed. Civarolo went to work at another local firm, while Diaz went to teach and help establish a new architecture curriculum at the partnership between Texas Southmost College and The University of Texas at Brownsville. By 2013, the market was stable, they had their first child, and they were living in the house they had designed. The waiting was over. Their kitchen table became the first office of ORANGE MADE.
A key aspect of ORANGE MADE’s mission is expanding collective architectural knowledge in the Rio Grande Valley and making architecture available to more people. The studio operates like a family — a key aspect of the local culture. It is one way the architects form better relations with the public, and it is part of the reason why so many clients have gotten on board to participate in eye-catching design projects over the course of the practice’s five years in existence.
ORANGE MADE believes that design can help make a healthier community. They believe in working every day to make architecture enjoyable for their clients and the general public. They also see young talent as key to the future and have dedicated a lot of time to mentoring interns and early career designers — a crucial building block for the future of the local design conversation.
Little Haven Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care Center
This facility is a state licensed “medical daycare” for children 18 years and younger. ORANGE MADE created a master plan for the property that included a future medical office building. The facility is the first of its kind in Texas and cares for 60 children. The program consists of six classrooms organized by age groups and care needs, exercise play areas, administrative offices, kitchen, laundry, isolation, and quiet rooms. The project aimed for a clean and modern aesthetic at a small scale. Fiber cement siding creates a residential feel, while the subtle exterior details and color scheme, as well as the charismatic interior, is refreshing and feels balanced, providing a clear welcome.
All Heart Church
This pre-engineered metal building facility is the future home of a young, growing church congregation that came across ORANGE MADE’s website and then walked into the office one day, finding common cause with the young architects. A pure and simple aesthetic exemplifies the ideology of the church. The building opens up to an outdoor plaza, transitioning to and from the parking lot. The all-glass front elevation connects the outdoor plaza to the main lobby. Entry canopies create a visual link from the plaza to the rest of the property and a path to the outdoor recreation areas. The project is set to begin construction in early 2019.
Hired by the City of McAllen to create a vision for the new Quinta Mazatlán Palm House, ORANGE MADE realized that this project was much larger than the building itself. They proposed a conceptual master plan, complete with a physical model, showing a vision for the many program elements complementing each other on the site and creating various points of interest for visitors. These elements included the Palm House, a restaurant, an amphibian and aviary center, skywalks, boardwalks, tree houses, and a gateway entry, all set within a native landscape. The Palm House redesign was based on the plan concept of the traditional hacienda, paying homage to the existing building.