Residential Design

VOL.6 2018

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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What is the value of an architect? Houses like Sugar Shack by Alterstudio make the answer crystal clear. Imagine this half-acre undulating lot in the hands of a speculative builder with a stock plan. What gyrations of foundation and stair design would have ensued to reconcile the contours of the topogra- phy? Both the lot and the house would have suffered deep compromises in livability and aesthetics—and, yes, in value, too—had a generic solution been imposed. But Kevin Alter's clients knew they needed skilled design help to make the most of their property and their program, and the resulting house turned every deficit into an asset. Located in the West Lake Hills area of Austin, this post-war neighborhood of limestone ranch houses is close to the Colorado River and the leading edge of Texas Hill Country. Its proximity to downtown and green space makes it a desirable place to live, notwithstanding the tricky topography. "The site was so interesting with its contours and the mature live oaks," says Kevin. "But it also has close neighbors, so we had to Opposite and this page: Sugar Shack's undulating half-acre lot made placement of the house a puzzle. Alterstudio solved the problem by placing parking under the house and lifting the main floor to the flattest part of the site. Family accesses the main level by exterior stair, screened from the street by a curtain of powder-coated steel rods. reconcile the contradictory desires for privacy and openness to nature. That's what architecture is so good at—resolving contradictions." Some architects might have solved these problems with a complicated compo- sition of structure and volume. The clients, however, were adamant in their desire for a smaller house—with main living space on just one level. "They didn't want big rooms, and they didn't want a lot of redundant space. They wanted their young children close," Kevin recalls. "In a way, it was kind of a Midcentury program." 41 VOL. 6, 2018 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGA ZINE.COM

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