Monday, February 08, 2010

Concrete Studio

Concrete Studio in Austin, Texas by Mell Lawrence Architects

Photographs are copyright Mell Lawrence Architects.

The aptly named Concrete Studio is tucked into a hillside of the property of a creative couple who are also avid gardeners. Design by Austin, Texas-based Mell Lawrence Architects, the poured-in-place structure certainly stands out with its exposed surface, scale-like texture and faceted form. In the last it appears to be one monolithic object carved to make way for openings and, one would guess, some sort of interior. At first glance it's intriguing, to say the least.

In plan the studio resembles a slightly irregular pentagon with one-and-a-half sides built into the hillside. The studio space itself sits on the second floor, above a garage. Where car access is at one end, the couple's entry into the studio is on the opposite, via a walkway at the level of the garden and sliding doors into the studio. In addition to these two openings are a large window facing the house, a few small openings facing different directions, a door from the garage, and a balcony from the shower. In each case, regardless of size, the opening follows the coursing of the concrete scales.

Also provided is a skylight, created at a corner that appears to have been lopped off. This triangular opening faces north, to bring in even light. It sits directly opposite the large rectangular window facing the house. The skylight does the most towards giving the interior its distinctive character. Sure concrete lines every concrete surface, dipping up and down at the roof line, but when it meets the triangular skylight something special is born. The two walls and roof that frame the opening seem to be saying, "we want light coming in here like this." It is not alien like the rectangular openings.

Returning to an obvious point, what makes this studio is the concrete. But instead of extruding a regular footprint, Mell Lawrence Architects found a plan that works within the larger site and shaped it as it rose. Each horizontal band of scaled concrete -- creating distinctive shadows at any time of the day -- seems to indicate a pour, a place to stop and maybe reevaluate things. In this sense it looks like the design evolved on site. This may not be the case, but the final result comes close to becoming a natural fit with the garden and other buildings on the couple's property.