• Design Conference 2023
    2023 Design Conference attendees in front of Deitert Ranch by Rhotenberry Wellen Architects. –photo by Luis Ayala, AIA.

From Dallas and Austin and Tulsa we came
To meet in Kerrville, all of us seeking the aim
Of touring the Hill Country and its buildings so fine
At this year’s TxA conference of design.

We donned ID badges that displayed our names
And boarded tour buses that all looked the same.
We caught up with old friends and made some that were new
As inside we talked as we sat together two by two.

To the Arcadia Theater we drove without mishap,
And while eating a lunch of chips and vegetable wrap
We learned of the region’s heritage, its politics, and aquifer science
From Katherine Romans of the Texas Hill Country Alliance.

Next Frank Harmon was ushered onto the stage
To share a presentation of both wisdom and sage.
He spoke of good design along with the importance of sketching
Using poetic observations and watercolors so fetching.

Frank Harmon, FAIA, presenting at the Arcadia Theater in Kerrville. –photo by Brantley Hightower, AIA

Back to the buses we did orderly file
And then drove through many a backcountry mile.
Outside the windows passed Central Texas flora and fauna
While the climate inside ranged from “frigid” to “sauna.”

When the buses stopped with the application of brake
We were free to explore two houses by Flato and Lake.
The homes showed the varied results of architect/owner collaborations
Even if the designs shared similar material and form articulations.

SK Ranch by Lake|Flato. –photo by Brantley Hightower, AIA
SK Ranch by Lake|Flato. –photo by Brantley Hightower, AIA

The first day ended at the Museum of Western Art
With spirits from a bar and hors d’oeuvres à la carte.
We reflected on all the experiences this first day did afford
Underneath vaulted cupolas design by O’Neil Ford.

We began day two with plates of breakfast and cups of joe.
And after boarding the buses, to the Ghost Hangar we did go.
Trance-like we wandered past airplanes of silver, navy blue, and teal
Underneath John Grable’s lamella vault of structural steel.

Attendees gathered in the Ghost Hangarby John Grable Architects. This 32,000 square foot structure was designed to house a living collection of Vintage WWII era aircraft. –photo by Brantley Hightower, AIA

It was in this great setting we all unfolded our chairs
To hear Brigitte Shim speak of her buildings and wares.
In describing her attention to craft and material expression
She left both a deep and lasting impression.

To the banks of the Frio River we next did alight.
We toured a home by Tim Cuppett, and try as we might
We could not help but feel at home amongst the oak and cypress trees
As we ate bespoke sandwiches and drank cold iced teas.

Camp Frio in Leakey by Cuppett Kilpatrick Architects. –photo by Jennifer Briggs

When our bellies were full, the final lecture began,
A co-presentation by Richard Fernau and Laura Hartman.
They described lessons learned from forty years of architectural works
In an engaging manner that evoked both laughter and smirks.

We then boarded the busses for one final destination:
A ranch by Rhotenberry Wellen which was the ideal location
To reflect on all we had learned and how it applied to our practice
While eating and drinking amongst oak trees and cactus.

Departing from Deitert Ranch by Rhotenberry Wellen Architects. –photo by Brantley Hightower, AIA

On Sunday morning the speakers once more assembled
For a panel dialogue of themes shared and resembled.
The topics ranged from inspirational works to paths not taken
While the audience enjoyed their hot eggs and bacon.

As we said our good-byes and checked out of our rooms
We knew the next conference couldn’t arrive too soon.
For while we may come for the lectures and sought-after tours,
We remember the fellowship: a thing both rare and pure.


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Brantley – Thank you for this joyful gift. It was a wonderful conference and I appreciate all of your help along the way!

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You nailed it.. what an amazing weekend of friends, architecture and hill country.


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