Urban Core

Preliminary design of single family residence in Austin. Designed for climate, south and north glazing are maximized and controlled, while the house is oriented around a side courtyard centered on a heritage tree, protecting its critical root zone.

In the past few months I’ve been working on a handful of single-family homes in central east Austin. They all have certain commonalities. Appropriately scaled for their neighborhoods, they range from a thousand to around 1600 square feet—restrained in this day and age of McMansions. While not all the lots are cooperative with respect to orientation, I’ve managed to design roofs that are cost-effective, architecturally expressive, and which have some or all of their area optimized for best solar photovoltaic collection. Most, though not all, follow a decidedly modernist formal vocabulary. It may come as a surprise to many how the clean lines and spare detailing of modernism are challenging to build, and in many instances increase (rather than decrease) construction costs. With land prices in Austin steadily increasing, I’ve had to be almost parsimonious—or at the very least careful—with my detailing to achieve the desired aesthetic without having overall project costs get out of control. Much of that responsibility falls on the builder, of course, and it’s essential on these projects that we work together as a close-knit team. Finally, almost all sites for these homes have had serious constraints on them, whether the City of Austin’s form-based zoning for two-story houses, the presence of heritage trees and their protected critical root zones, narrow lots with relatively modest available buildable area, or in one case a significant drainage easement. But in the end, architecture can rise to the occasion when constrained.

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About François Lévy

Registered Texas architect, former university lecturer and researcher, CAD/BIM consultant and trainer. I hold an M.Arch as well as an MS in architectural engineering from the University of Texas at Austin; I've taught architecture courses there. I have been practicing since 1993, and established my own firm in 1997. I design buildings that capture the imagination, express regional beauty and a sense of place, and touch lightly on the earth. My projects reflect their cultural and geographical context, are accessible and comprehensible to the user, relevant to their surroundings, and contribute to a sense of place rather than obeying a preconceived architectural agenda. All my work—whether in teaching, research, or architecture—investigates the intersection of design, technology, and sustainability. I am particularly passionate about working collaboratively to create projects that eloquently express how we use and conserve energy and water, and inhabit the land. My architectural projects have attracted regional and national press, including Dwell Magazine and HGTV. My residential architectural work includes projects up to 10,000 SF, with project budgets up to $2M. Nonresidential work has included collaboration with other firms on commercial office buildings, school projects, and public infrastructure. In addition to leading Vectorworks seminars to architects for over a decade, I have presented and lectured widely on CAD and BIM. My current areas of research interest are sustainable architecture, BIM, cooling through passive ventilation, and space architecture, on which I have presented at international conferences. Specialties: Sustainable architecture, BIM (building information modeling), CAD, space architecture
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