Texas Modern masterpiece

How would you like to live in the heart of Highland Park and yet be so completely concealed from sight, your privacy is absolute? Take a peek behind the tall hedges of 3212 Dartmouth Avenue for a glimpse of a Texas Modern masterpiece with a rare provenance.

The legendary architect Frank Welch originally designed this home in 1978. As if that’s not enough to turn your head and make your heart flutter, this Texas Modern masterpiece was reinvented about ten years ago, by another famous Texan — AIA award-winning architect Max Levy.

In the 1970s, architects were pushing the envelope all over America. We saw the construction of innovative styles like Shed and A-Frame homes. It was an exciting time in architecture, and there were plenty of clients eager to be on the cutting edge. We’re lucky in Dallas that not only do some of these homes still stand, but owners maintain and improve the designs. One of the boldest moves made with this property was capturing the lot next door. Rather than expanding the home, the owner added to the privacy and sanctuary-like feel with stunning gardens.

That privacy was thoughtfully constructed by internationally-recognized landscape architect David Hocker, principal of Hocker Design Group (HDG). Hocker is noted for indigenous gardens. If you have been in Dallas for any length of time and value landscape design, you’ll know Hocker for his award-winning work on the 1926 Dallas Power & Light electrical substation which became an indoor and outdoor art exhibition space, guest artist’s residence, and not-for-profit organization.

There are so many things I love about this Texas Modern masterpiece, and the backstory is one of them. Listing agent David Griffin told me the current owner was looking at high-rises and could not find anything that suited him.

Then he saw this Texas Modern masterpiece.
Texas Modern

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Chris-Craft-House

The Chris Craft House, designed by architect Vince Snyder, at 22 Vanguard Way in Urban Reserve, the brainchild of Dallas developer Diane Cheatham.

Dallas developer Diane Cheatham is a dedicated modernist and committed environmentalist.

As CEO of Urban Edge Developers, Ltd., Cheatham has brought those values to her work in multiple settings, from small infill condos and townhomes that won multiple design awards, to her masterpiece at Urban Reserve, a signature modern neighborhood that uses sustainable features creatively.

Diane Cheatham

Diane Cheatham

It’s a trend she’s happy to say is showing up more in North Texas.

“I see more developers and builders responding to consumer demand by building modern and green,” Cheatham said. “The style is much more accepted in Dallas now, and a growing segment of homebuyers are interested in green building and a more modern aesthetic. I’d like to see more developers thinking out of the box, providing more options at all price levels.”

Cheatham envisions and creates enclaves that are both eco-friendly and people-friendly. At Urban Reserve, for example, a reservoir that gets neighborhood run-off water is used to irrigate common spaces and individual lawns. Every house is required to have LEED-H certification. Her own house at 1 Vanguard Way, which she shares with her husband Chuck, has geothermal heating and cooling, energy-saving windows, and an 18,000-gallon cistern that collects rain runoff from the roof. Homeowners in the community are encouraged “not to do the standard Dallas fences,” and many of the homes feature indoor-outdoor living spaces that encourage interaction with neighbors and passers-by.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Urban Reserve has earned multiple recognition and awards, like the 2007 Dallas AIA Excellence in Sustainable Design, 2007 CLIDE Award (Celebrating Leadership in Development Excellence), and a 2009 award from Eco-Structure Magazine, where Urban Reserve was distinguished as one of seven innovative projects.

All this took rule-breaking by Cheatham as she customized street widths to slow traffic, created rain gardens and retention ponds, and made the basic infrastructure and layout of the development conducive to her overall vision.

“It’s taken longer than expected, but there are only six lots of the 50 left and work is proceeding on six homes with eight more in various stages of design,” she said. “The realization of Urban Reserve has been the hardest [of all my projects], and as it nears completion, it is also the most satisfying. Being out there on the cutting edge proved to be more complicated than I anticipated.”

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Thad Reeves

The Bley Sleeping House in San Marcos. Photo: Craig Kuhner

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).

Thad Reeves, AIA, is a co-founder of A.GRUPPO Architects, an office positioned as a vehicle for collaboration between themselves and other designers, architects, fabricators, and most importantly, clients.

He received his Masters of Architecture from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1997. During this time, he studied in Spain and traveled widely in Europe. His interest in the influence of historic European architecture on contemporary design has led him on numerous architectural pilgrimages throughout Western and Central Europe, Australia, and the U.S.

Thad Reeves, AIA

Thad Reeves

After graduating, Reeves began his career with RTKL Associates in Dallas, where he was part of both local and international award-winning projects. He later worked with Oglesby Greene Architects, where he honed his skills on well-crafted, smaller-scale projects.

In 2003, Reeves went entrepreneurial, helping to form the offices of Thomas Krahenbuhl and Truett Roberts Architects, continuing to work on commercial and residential projects at all phases of the design process.

It was in 2005 that Reeves began teaching at his alma mater, UT Arlington, where he taught for ten years (he is currently taking a break, as his business has really taken off). This was also when he co-founded A. GRUPPO.

CandysDirt: You have an interest in the influence of European architecture on contemporary design. How do you see that happening—or not—in Dallas?

Thad Reeves: My interest in European architecture, both historic and contemporary, has to do more with ideas and where they come from. In Europe, they’ve been dealing with buildings in the urban context for far longer than we have. I think there is a lot to learn from how the Europeans approach issues of density, transportation, and public space.

I’ve realized that I’m not as excited about a lot of new buildings. Many are very nicely done, but lack something that I haven’t quit identified yet. A few years ago in New York, I realized there were a lot more things to learn from how someone (probably not an architect) resolved a gate or connection between two buildings rather pragmatically than something considered “high design.” Ideas are all around us, so it’s fun to catalog those and see where they will pop up in our work.

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