Building Envelopes: Greater Performance from Fewer Materials

A month or so ago I gave the kick-off talk at the Building Enclosure Council National Symposium, taking a very quick and dirty look at two kinds of history of building enclosures.  I have had a keen interest in building enclosures since I co-chaired the Technology Conference for…

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Houston’s Buffalo Bayou: Buildings in Parks

I am a big fan of parks.  My local park in Austin is Zilker Park with its famous Barton Springs Pool. There is a beautiful 1940s bathhouse at the pool, designed by Dan Driscoll, an early Texas modernist architect.  I often stage my visits to the pool at times that will require a…

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What does global architecture mean?

I recently traveled to Bolivia to participate in the XIII Seminario Internacional de Arquitectura, a biennial architectural conference held at the University of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.  I had spoken at the same conference fourteen years ago and, as was the case before, I really…

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Constructing the UT Pan American Performing Arts Center

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the construction site for our new UT Pan American Performing Arts Center.  We’re using load-bearing masonry walls, and at this stage, with the project half-complete, the building has the look of a modern-day Roman ruin.  I love this stage of…

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A perfect building? Quite possibly, yes.

This summer I visited Vancouver, certainly one of the most spectacular urban settings in the world.  While there, I met with Mark Reddington, partner of LMN Architects of Seattle, and Ken Cretney, chief operating officer for the Vancouver Convention Centre.  Ken came on board…

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Micro-housing’s time has come … again.

Several years ago, I visited the Weissenhof Estate, an experimental residential complex built on a hillside outside Stuttgart in 1927.  Some of the most recognizable names in 20th century architecture were contributors to the buildings and the project’s success, including Le…

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What role for architects in planning future cities?

A recent article by Aaron Betsky in Architect magazine took issue with a New York Times-sponsored program called the Energy For Tomorrow Conference.  Betsky was specifically concerned that the Times had not included any "urbanists, planners, or even an architect" but did include…

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High Performing Thermal Mass in New Mexico

Increasingly, I’m more interested in what architecture does than just what it is.  In a previous blog, I wrote about the new office building we designed for Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE), in Austin, and the use of thermal mass to control temperature.  We’ve now…

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Building With High Thermal Mass in Hot, Humid Climates

It is hot and humid as hell in most of Texas at the moment.  The current conditions call into question whether our normal way of dealing with summer heat (using primarily insulation and air conditioning for cooling) is the only economical and ecological approach to these…

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