In our ongoing series, Interview with an Architect, we speak with leading voices in the North Texas architecture community and learn about their work, development issues in our community, and good design practices and principals (you can read the last one here).
After a decade of practicing architecture in Fort Worth for acclaimed local offices, architect Philip Newburn’s passion for modern, sustainable architecture led him to branch out and start his own firm. He’s making a big splash, being recognized as one of the great young architects in North Texas.
“I love architecture that makes you think and I think modern architecture has that effect on a lot of people—it is good to reevaluate your opinions from time to time,” he said. “I also think that there is an inherent optimism when people set out to push boundaries and create something new, which is admirable.”
His degree is from the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, and he practices at his firm, Philip Newburn Architecture. We sat down with him to talk modern architecture, sustainable design, and more.
CandysDirt.com: Would you say you have an overarching design philosophy?
Philip Newburn: It’s almost too obvious to state, but the point of architecture should be to create meaningful, authentic, and beautiful spaces for humans and the communities in which they live. It is unfortunate that so much of our built environment seems to consistently fail at something as basic as this. I consider myself fortunate that every day I get to work with great clients in an effort to improve their quality of life and their communities.
CD: What is your favorite project to date and why?
PN: My current favorite would probably be a new microbrewery and taproom for HopFusion Ale Works, just south of downtown Fort Worth. It has a lot of features that made it enjoyable to work on. It is a creative reuse of an existing building in a corner of town that had been neglected for years, it will contribute to the ongoing revitalization of the area, it is a local business whose owners live in the neighborhood with all the benefits that will entail, it was educational to learn about the brewing process, and mostly it was fun. I think it will be a neighborhood landmark for a long time.
CD:How would you describe the state of sustainable architecture now? Where would you like it to be?
PN: Today, I think every project designed by an architect addresses sustainability in some form or fashion and I give a lot of credit to stronger energy code regulations and to programs like LEED that have done a lot to raise awareness among the general public. Where I think we still need progress is at the larger scale and think more sustainably at the neighborhood and city level and promote walkability. Urban dwellers use far less energy per capita than suburbanites and we neglected these types of neighborhoods for decades, although I think this, too, is turning around.
CD: You designed the first LEED Platinum certified home in Fort Worth, which was featured on the 2015 AIA Fort Worth homes tour. What made it special to you?
PN: What made it most special was that I designed it for myself and it was the first house that I had designed fully on my own. It was significant departure in style and budget from the typical residential project that I was working on at the firm where I worked at the time. Being my own client also allowed me to focus on elements of the design that I felt were neglected in a typical project like sustainability, and also allowed me to state my position on issues like the compatibility of modern and historic architecture, the importance of urban infill, etc. My family has since moved, but the new owners are great and I feel it is in very good hands.
CD: What did it mean to you design the first one?
PN: To me LEED certification is a mark of technical expertise and I saw it as a challenge. I wanted to push the envelope both aesthetically and sustainably as far as I could on a relatively tight budget and it was very satisfying when the house was certified Platinum. It felt like a real achievement. It was also a great learning experience.
CD: What current projects have you excited now and why?
PN: In addition to the HopFusion brewery project that should be finishing up by late summer, I am also working on a remodel of 14,000-square-foot office building just west of downtown Fort Worth. It is also currently under construction and will be opening soon. It is very satisfying when you are able to take an outdated, mediocre building and give it new life.
I also have several residential projects underway. I love getting to work closely with homeowners who want to do something ambitious.
CD: What is your favorite building in North Texas, commercial or residential, and why?
PN: There are so many great houses in Dallas and Fort Worth it would be hard to pick just one. One house that I think is a little bit under-the-radar but is a real masterpiece is the Bass Residence designed by Paul Rudolph in 1970 in Westover Hills on the west side of Fort Worth. It is not really visible from the street and I think most people don’t even realize it’s there but in my opinion it deserves to be mentioned among the great late-modern American houses.