The Court & Corten House is a detached single-family residence on a typical sized lot in the established ‘Heritage’ neighborhood district of central Austin and situated within walking distance to the University of Texas campus.
The house was designed and built for a client who is dedicated to preserving the general scale of housing in the vicinity at a time when the area is pressured by new developments that often seek maximum lot coverage and bulk, and thus are counter to the qualities that make the area attractive to so many.
The point of departure for the project was threefold: to design a new house sympathetically scaled to the neighborhood, to honor and accommodate the majestic live oak tree on the site, and to use portions of the lot as enlivening neighborhood gathering spaces rather than entirely private enclaves.
The planning of the ground level comprises an ‘open-plan’ living, dining, and kitchen sequence, a bedroom suite, and utility spaces – all of which receive an abundance of natural light through generous floor to ceiling glazing. The top floor is dedicated to another bedroom suite and the outdoor roof terrace that is accessed through large sliding glass doors.
All of the main spaces are simply painted white to maximize the distribution of light and not detract from the numerous views to the lushly planted surrounding lot.
The resulting risk of complete abstraction inside is alleviated by the stained oak flooring and Douglas-fir ceiling areas.
The house is inspired by the humble size and simple shapes of 1920’s bungalows. The design acknowledges the efficiency of bungalows while simultaneously addressing some deficiencies of the type, specifically, dark interiors and little connection with the remaining lot.
The design of the Court & Corten House is centered on two facets: maximizing natural light through an entrance court; and using the virtue of the site, the majestic heritage oak, as a unique amenity (rather than obstacle) for development.
The tree’s crown is harnessed for shade, while the technical feat of cantilevering the foundation allows a placement close enough for the shade to be effective.
Externally the house appears as a play of cubic volumes uniformly wrapped in a rugged weathering steel cladding.