• The 10th Annual TxA Design Conference took place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. - photo by Brantley Hightower, AIA

On March 3-6, some 90 architects descended upon the small Wyoming town of Jackson for the 10th Annual Texas Society of Architects Design Conference. Seeking to explore the challenges and opportunities of creating “Shelter in the Hinterlands,” the gathering allowed architects from around the state (and one from Australia) to visit notable local projects, hear lectures by renowned architects, and enjoy one another’s company in a way that had not been possible since the beginning of the pandemic two years earlier.

Numerous attendees arrived early for an exclusive tour of the Old Faithful Inn, as it is closed to the public during the winter season. Special arrangements were made with the National Park Service to allow a convoy of SnowCoach vehicles to visit the historic 1904 landmark. 

Elizabeth Price, AIA, chair of the committee tasked with planning the event, kicked off the conference in earnest on Friday afternoon. The opening lecture was given by John Carney, FAIA. A founding partner of CLB Architects in Jackson, Carney recently co-founded Prospect Studio, a “small firm seeking to have a big impact on the community.” Fellow Prospect Studio partners Danny Wicke, AIA, and Matt Thackray, AIA, also spoke of their backgrounds and the unique experience of practicing in the Jackson Valley. Following the lecture, attendees boarded buses to visit three homes designed by CLB, the firm where Carney, Wicke, and Thackray were previously employed. The evening ended with drinks at the Mangy Moose, a steakhouse and saloon located in the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Saturday morning began with a lecture given by Tod Williams, FAIA, and Billie Tsien, FAIA. The husband-and-wife team described their process for creating projects of rich material and refined detail that feel rooted in their place, whether that place is New York or Mumbai. In the presentation that followed, Canadian architect Omar Gandhi described his firm’s collection of smaller projects on the maritime province of Nova Scotia. After a box lunch enjoyed at the National Museum of Wildlife Art (whose auditorium served as the venue for the conference’s lectures), attendees listened to Ray Calabro, FAIA, a principal in the Seattle studio of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. Calabro spoke of his work in the Jackson Hole area, including a residence attendees visited later that afternoon. Embedded in the edge of a butte, the sleek concrete-and-glass home was a stark contrast to Bear Lodge, the final residence that the group toured. Although completed in the 1990s, the exquisitely detailed home was designed by Jim Nagle, FAIA, of Chicago to resemble rustic resort structures from a century earlier.

The final day of the conference began with an informal discussion among the featured speakers. The wide-ranging conversation touched on issues of scale, place, and process. The event ended with a visit to the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center at the nearby Grand Teton National Park. Conference speaker Ray Calabro, who had served as the project architect for the design earlier in his career, addressed questions about the building’s unique structural response to the challenging snow loads encountered at the base of the Teton Range.

As conference attendees boarded planes to return home (Texas architects made up a significant number of the souls on board American Airlines flight 2596), they left with a greater appreciation of what it takes to create shelter in the Wyoming hinterlands. They also left already looking forward to the places future Design Conferences would take them in the event’s second decade.

Brantley Hightower, AIA, is an architect in San Antonio.

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