Patrick's Light Filled Austin Atelier!

Patrick's Light Filled Austin Atelier!

Adrienne Breaux
Nov 11, 2009

Name: Patrick Y. Wong
Location: Austin, Texas (Galindo Neighborhood)
Size: 1,600 square feet

If the photos for this House Call seem particularly good, it's because the owner is a professional photographer! Specializing in architecture, weddings, portraits and more, we've loved his work for years and aren't surprised one bit that we fell so hard for his house. Unique, modern and bright, this is one inspiring Austin home and studio!

On the idea: A tremendous amount of thought went into creating the atelier, which was originally conceived for myself and two Italian Greyhounds, Sage & Solo, that were adopted from Greyhound Rescue Austin. I collaborated with AIA architect Jay Hargrave of Cottam Hargrave Design Build based upon the firm's level of commitment to craftsmanship on top of their design capabilities. The atelier is a 1.5 level loft with a lawn on .49 acres in South Austin's Galindo neighborhood. The atelier was conceived in two parts: the 1600 sf 1.5 level building and the porte cochere. The wedge/shed profile and volume of the atelier was a given and reflects my preference for simplicity, restraint and respect for the working class character of the neighbor. The atelier is adjacent to a church and the spectacular sunrise views of the campanile are framed by a dogtrot, which serves as the organizational spine and provides a view through the entire house from front to back. This transparency is enhanced by floor to ceiling store-front windows and doors. The most common question I receive is about the lack of privacy due to the large storefront windows that allow anyone on the street to see inside. My response is that I wanted to create a visually inviting place that encouraged my neighbors and passers by to peer in. The openness is intended to create an open mind artistically, but is a psychological deterrent to the criminal mind, since all points of entry can be seen from the street. Actual security is in place without compromising transparency by the application of 3M security film and Lexan over the tempered glass.

On the details: The atelier ground floor contains the work spaces: studio/reception, post-production chamber and storage chambers (which are on either side of the dogtrot and not illustrated), bathroom and kitchen. The loft area is my personal space and contains a second bathroom, laundry room, walk in closet and storage within the corner chamber of maple veneered plywood. The interior design of the atelier emphasizes transparency, translucency, open space, light and lightness with subtle and refined steel and trim details. The spaces are austere but each contains one element of ornament such as the circular platform for a steel sculpture of a crane poised on the back of a tortoise located within a steel plate above the dogtrot, that is both the balustrade for the loft and a ventilation grill for the HVAC. While both bathrooms are decorated with honey colored glass tiles, the private upstairs bathroom also has a custom pendant fixture by Kathleen Ash of Studio-K Glass. In addition to doing the structural steel work, Cottam Hargrave designed and built the kitchen counter supports, the stair monorail and railing. Although cabinetry is maple veneered plywood, a radiata pine plywood was selected for the sculptural staircase which 'floats' off the wall and adds a sense of lightness. The black solid surface countertops in the kitchen and bathroom are a paper based fiber product by Richlite.

The kitchen: The kitchen was designed for an inexperienced chef. It has no dish washer, but two microwaves and a stove/oven by GE that capably handles frozen pizza, Toll House cookies, fried eggs and steamed broccoli. A nostalgic keepsake from the twentieth century is a GraLab darkroom timer (so I don't burn the pizza or cookies). The dog house under the counter was created by the architecture firm KRDB and was acquired by bid at the annual Barkitecture auction. The dog house is named 'Dog-Ma' and is designed from a single 4'x8' sheet of bamboo plywood.

Lots of light: The main design feature of the loft is the maple wood chamber, which visually partitions the space into two areas - one for sleeping and one for watching movies. As an early morning riser, I requested a large corner east window which allows the morning light to suffuse the interior and dapple the walls with gold. Unfortunately the abundant light interfered with my movie experience. Although afternoon light is indirect and soft due to large overhangs, the 'Lightbox' effect of all white surfaces overpowered the screen illumination and required me to purchase a manual solar roller shade with a premium basket weave fabric that has 5% openness from Kennady Company.

Insect-inspired: The porte cochere was conceived to add a sense of playfulness, levity and compositional balance to the atelier's stark presence. To inspire and encourage the design direction, I provided Cottam Hargrave with French painter Bernard Durin's book Insects Etc., which is an anthology of arthropods and contains vibrant, oversized illustrations of insects with an emphasis on beetles. The body of the porte cochere tucks under the eave of the atelier roof and rests upon clear coated steel legs, while the wing of steel structure cantilevers over the drive. The wings are perforated metal, which reduces the wind load on the structure, modifies the harsh light and heat of the Texas summer sun, and casts a beautiful shadow pattern on the landscape.

On the landscaping: I consulted with ASLA architect Ele McKinney for the landscape. The curvilinear shape in front was conceived of as a water element without water and provides a soft, organic contrast to the angular structures. The sinuous shape emulates the curve in the street and the simple bend in a river. The square precast concrete pavers, cut limestone blocks and natural boulders are set in beds of decomposed granite and recycled glass, and were composed to reflect stepping stones along a creek that lead up to a the porch. Although the landscape in back of the atelier is modest, I designed a focal point centered on the view out the dogtrot, which acts as a middle ground element between the atelier and the campanile. The organic sculpture executed by Big Red Sun consists of a half round vessel containing a variety of succulents atop an inverted metal vessel base, set in large chips of black granite.

No longer a bachelor pad: After living for three years as a bachelor with two dogs, the atelier now hosts my artistic wife Cherry Li, her cat Coco and her 12-year-old daughter Jasmine part-time. The new cook is much improved and I do the dishes.

Thanks, Patrick!

(Images: Patrick Y. Wong)

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