Twin Valley House

Austin, Texas

2005 Custom Home Magazine Design Award: Merit

2004 AIA Austin Design Award: Honor

The greatest attribute of the house, as well as its greatest challenge is its site. Located on the side of Cat Mountain in Austin, Texas, the site had the potential for extensive views of Lake Austin and the distant Hill Country. The lot itself however is very small, only forty feet in width and part of a Planned Unit Development, which allows the houses in the neighborhood to be built with very high density. The houses are built literally on the property line with a setback of only five feet between them. The neighbor's house to the south, in this case, sits directly on the property line with a blank facing wall averaging twenty five feet high. The challenge then became how to maximize the long distant view and minimize the short, local view to the south.

The house wraps around a vertical, almost urban space with a pool on the northwest corner of the lot. On the north and west, the lot fronts a protected greenbelt offering an intimate connection to the landscape. A solid wall was created along the south wall to remove awareness of the neighbor five feet away, while at the upper level the wall is opened to the distant view with a continuous ribbon window.

Decks are built on all levels maximizing the visual and literal connection to the outdoors. Each level has a deck with a unique character, orientation and context. The lowest deck is meant to capture and enhance the close, short, private and protected view - the long roof deck is its' opposite - enabling a wide, sweeping horizontal view, expansive, open, and breezy.

Special attention was paid to the design and execution of the building details with particular sensitivity given to the sensual and haptic properties of the material used. Bamboo is utilized throughout for flooring and cabinetry, salvaged metal is used to create hearths and translucent Panelite is used in a double-pivoting door creating a wall that can be simultaneously closed and open to varying degrees.