2022 RDAA | Custom Rural or Vacation House | Constant Springs | Alterstudio

Is it rural or is it urban? This new house overlooking an escarpment occupies that liminal zone between the two—a close-in suburb in Austin that’s both lush and walkable. And, in a way, it also mediates between the built environment and the natural one, as it literally embraces the existing trees on site. 

“It’s one thing to do a glass house on 50 acres,” says Kevin Alter, “and quite another to do it on a suburban site with houses all around it. The architecture has to do it through invention.” Although the site and its prospect were enviable, those existing trees were “right where you’d want to put a building.” So Alterstudio and its client, who was also the novice builder on the project, decided to engage the obstacles with the architecture.

Under the guidance of an arborist, the team determined how close the structure could come to the trees without harming them. The house, which is built on piers because of expansive soils, dances around tree roots and allows the rains to come through the ovoid apertures to water them. 

Glazed and solid walls offer a similar juxtaposition of openness and closure throughout the building. “Architecture has that ability to frame and invite you to see things in a new way,” says Kevin. 

“It is,” said one judge, “a refuge.”


Custom Rural or Vacation House

Alterstudio Architecture

Constant Springs Residence


Project Credits

Architect: Ernesto Cragnolino, Joseph Boyle, Michael Woodland, Sara Mays, Tim Whitehill, Kevin Alter, Alterstudio Architecture LLP, Austin, Texas

Builder: Hill Capital, LLC, Austin

Landscape Architect: BDW Landworks, Austin

Structural Engineer: Scott Williamson, Structure Works, Austin

Project Size: 3,606 square feet

Site Size: 0.39 acre

Construction Cost: Withheld

Photography: Case Dunn, Leonid Furmansky

Key Products

Cladding: Lueders limestone

Cooktop/Outdoor Grill: Wolf

Cooking Ventilation: Gaggenau

Decorative Hardware: FSB, Linnea, Epic, Accurate, Emtek, Valli&Valli

Door Hardware: Pemko

Faucets: Dornbracht (kitchen), Waterworks

Garage Door: Schweiss Hydraulic Door

Humidity Control: Ultra-Aire by Santa Fe

HVAC: Mitsubishi

Lighting: Cooper, WAC

Ovens/Dishwasher/Specialty Appliances: Miele

Paints: Benjamin Moore

Roof Windows: VELUX

Sinks: Kohler, Mirabelle

Tile: Ann Sacks, Heath Ceramics

Toilets: TOTO

Tubs: Waterworks (primary), Mirabelle

Washer/Dryer: Samsung

Windows: VistaLuxe by Kolbe Windows & Doors