austin architecture: Harwell Hamilton Harris' Cranfill Apartments (1959)

Harwell Hamilton Harris, a student of Richard Neutra's who worked on the Lovell Health House, served as the head of the architecture department at The University of Texas at Austin. While in Austin, he designed a couple places including the Cranfill Apartments in 1959.

We were able to tour the Cranfill Apartments several years ago and see two units, and they are quite special. I'm not a fan of tunnel apartments (windows on one side and, if you are lucky, on the opposite), but Harris expertly addressed the challenge by creating a two-story east-facing window wall that glazes upon a garden.

This perfectly-decorated unit, lovingly photographed by Patrick Wong for TVOA, is stunning (and available for $495K!).


a destructive stroll through the neighborhood

With homes starting to go for over a million bucks in our hood (one just down the street!), it's not surprising that more and more of the original mid-century modernish homes are meeting the dozer. The photo above is of a house a few lots south of us fixin' to get scraped. That makes us a little sad because wethinks this house, in part, inspired the design of ours (the long horizontal line across the facade, the carport, the limestone wall, the clerestory windows). The neighborhood is, more and more, in transition with a mix of scrapes replaced with suburban boohoo, farmhouse modern, and, in a precious few places, modern. 

The place below is a few houses to the north and is appearing to be a sympathetic updating of an MCM-ish house (the same company is updating another house just around the corner). 

This place is just two houses across the street from us and is a radical remodel fantastically done. Sooper hip and sooper fun:

With this place and a couple more contemporaries down our street, we like to think we provided a green light for Modern in this area. 

Austin has gone crazy for farmhouse modern. I'd call this hosue below more farmhouse contemporary, but it's well done (and far preferable to boohoo suburbia):

This house to be is more farmhouse-lite:

But it's these designs (below) that are dissappointing: suburban blah (at the ripe ole price of 950K!):

I know, I know: a lot of people like this "style", and these places are nice inside, but yikes!

The hood's a-changin' with scrapes galore. As prices rise, I think we'll see more and more architect-designed homes. There will be fewer and fewer people willing to pay 1.5 to 2 mil for a house that would fit right in with Pflugerville...


a venturi in austin?

While seeking a street address for the Laguna Gloria Art Museum for a travel blog on Austin I'm putting together (just what I need: another blog!), I happened across a letter-to-the-editor of the New York Times in 1991 concerning a missed architectural opportunity for Austin: a Robert Venturi design for the Laguna Gloria Art Museum!

Austin shamefully missed out on a Hertzog and de Meuron design for the Blanton, but I wasn't aware of the one involving the Post-Modern pioneer, Venturi. The letter-to-the-editor lists out the issues and concerns that led to the project's demise (which occurred just before we moved to town), but "Wow!" I am by no means a fan of Post-Modern (and this design is, by my eyes, ho-hum), but a pink Venturi would have been a spirited addition to the urban fabric of downtown.

images from here


dancing with architecture: Newport, Corvallis, and Portland, Oregon

Besides hitting up the Wright in Silverton, I was able to spend a few hours in Newport, Corvallis, and Portland before heading home Lots of natural beauty and murals, but also some Brutalist landscaping architecture by Lawrence Halprin and Angela Danadjieva as part of Portland's Open Space Sequence. Portland installed the Sequence between 1963 and 1970 (50 years ago!) in what Ada Louise Huxtable called "one of the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance." As an added bonus, the whole area is bubbling with Brutalism of the same vintage. With the tree canopy in its full regalia, it's a pleasant stroll through an actual urban landscape where nature and the built environment embrace each other. I was able to dodge Nazis and the Antifa to foot and shoot the parks.

Halprin collaborated with his wife, Anna, a dance choreographer; Charles Moore, a prominent post-Modernist from Austin in designing the sequence; and Angela Danadjieva of his office (who, by my eyes [at least on this project] out-prinned Halprin).


Before heading over to Corvallis to visit with family, I was able to roll out to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, visible from Agate Beach, which is where I spent the night before enjoying the sunset. Siri, after asking her what the best place to eat in Newport was, led me to Local Ocean Seafood on the docks.

Local Ocean Seafood has a nifty place


Corvallis is a lazy little college town that is graced with a few murals downtown...

Check that baby out: a nearly original and still operating Greyhound bus station!


After getting up early on Saturday morning, I hightailed it to Portland to see the Halprin urban park and visit Powell's bookstore. After parking for Powell's several blocks away, I stumbled upon a Rone, so off I went on an unexpected mural walk as well. I got stumped as well! Made it to the airport on time!

Halprin's Lovejoy Fountain with Moore's pavilion behind. I couldn't get a close look since the area was fenced off for remodeling. 

I found Danadjieva's Keller Fountain far more interesting and ambitious. No water, but at least it was open for perusing.

Halprin's Pettygrove Park (also called, somewhat jokingly, Mae West Park).