Cuernavaca House in Austin, Texas / Alterstudio Architecture

Cuernavaca House in Austin, Texas

Architects: Alterstudio Architecture LLP
Project: Cuernavaca House
Location: Austin, Texas
Photographers: Casey Dunn
Text by Alterstudio Architecture

The Cuernavaca house is the latest installment in an evolving constructed landscape on a two-acre family compound that is shared by the client and her sister. Nestled in a wooded lot, the home forms an ensemble with an existing pool house. The latter’s board-formed concrete walls establish the material basis for the new residence, which is home to a family of five and includes two home offices.

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The Cuernavaca house features a restrained vocabulary of rift sawn oak, mill finished steel, galvanized metal panels, and concrete—that alternates in orientation (between vertical and horizontal) and pattern (among board-formed, sand blasted, and bush-hammered). Taken together, these materials create an environment rich in texture and animated by sun and shade over the course of a day.

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The Cuernavaca house slips between the existing pool house and a magnificent live oak, defining discrete terrains on white oak ceiling defines the more intimate spaces within the property. Long views are established: east to the limestone shelf of the Colorado River; north to a rolling meadow; west to a grove of oaks and the shared pool house.

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A 22-foot tall porch, with an outdoor fireplace, provides an outdoor family room; a second-floor roof deck affords constant breezes and stunning views to the limestone cliffs. Aligned with these natural features, the house welcomes engagement with circumstances of this particular landscape as the owners move through their home; further, the house provides a sense of the entire property in incidental moments.

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Inside, dramatic vistas are omnipresent, and the house is alive with activity. The raw texture of the concrete is presented against finely detailed walnut millwork and custom site-glazed window walls, which are framed with rift-sawn white oak and steel to form flitch plate mullions.

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A meandering an open plan. Moreover, rich walnut cabinetry, book-matched statuary countertops, monolithic limestone vanities, and delicate timber screens provide a point of stasis against the ubiquitous and dynamic circumstances of place.

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