2022 RDAA | Custom Urban House | Water’s Edge Residence | A Parallel Architecture

“When you walk through this house—even if you don’t notice it—you sense that everything is just lasered in and so tight,” says Eric Barth, AIA. Indeed, there’s a feeling of calm the house inspires just by looking at it. Such is the effect of exacting precision and deft proportioning. You might expect no less from a firm that calls itself “A Parallel Architecture,” but on this lakeside project for a mathematician and his family, tolerances were even tighter.

“Every stone and brick in the house was located in our drawings,” says Eric. “That doesn’t happen on all our projects but, for a mathematician, it was important. The fun thing was that at every meeting he would throw us a mathematically based curveball. We were constantly looking for opportunities to infuse math-based logic into the house. All the siding is binary, spelling out hidden messages. There are a lot of Easter eggs hidden in the house—some he’s found, some he hasn’t.”  

Yet all was not just fun and games on the 8,000-square-foot project. There were some real problems to solve. Chief among them was a highly exposed lot with a prime view to the west. The Texas sun and heat gain were relentless. So Eric and his team set about devising a plan where the house shades itself from the sun and adjacent neighbors. The private two-story wing, for instance, shields the central entertaining space and courtyard. Deep overhangs and operable window wall systems allow those public spaces to function as seamless indoor/outdoor living areas. Strategically hidden window shades, a nine-zone HVAC system, and large tree plantings do the rest of the work. 

“From the get-go, the summer sun is a real beast,” Eric explains. “So we combined active and passive measures, including the massing of the house itself, to shield against the setting sun. You really have to think about this house in 3D to understand, Still, there’s about a 20-minute period where there’s nothing you can do but block the sun with shades. We went to great lengths to conceal a whole series of automated roller shades. So often those things are applied, but we like to bury them and make them a non-issue.”

The rich, limited palette of materials offers indoor/outdoor resilience—limestone, steel, concrete, stone, mahogany, and a dark brick from Italy. “It’s all about durability and low-maintenance,” says Eric. “The house was built like a commercial building”—but one with a stealth, human-based soul. As one judge noted, “They went with the Golden section—even carrying it down to the boat dock.”

“It’s a really big house and that’s hard to do and not make it feel bloated,” observed another judge. “The architecture is very strong.”

Honor Award

Custom Urban House

A Parallel Architecture

Water’s Edge Residence

Austin, Texas

Project Credits

Architect: Eric Barth, AIA; Ryan Burke, AIA; Diane Hong, A Parallel Architecture, Austin, Texas

Builder: Sam Stewart Custom Homes, West Lake Hills, Texas

Interior Designer: Cravotta Interiors, Austin

Structural Engineer: Way Consulting Engineers, Austin

Civil Engineer: Janis Smith Consulting, Austin

Project Size: 8,019 square feet

Site Size: 1.75 acres

Photography: Chase Daniel

Key Products

Cladding: S. Anselmo Brick, Lueders limestone, Sapele Mahogany

Cooktop/Ovens/Dishwasher/Refrigerator/Freezer/Specialty Appliances: Gaggenau

Entry Doors/Windows/Windows Systems: Quantum Windows & Doors

Decking: Ipe

Faucets: Dornbracht, Hansgrohe

Fireplace: FireRock

Flooring: Limestone

Garage Doors: AlumaDoor

Grill: Lynx

HVAC: Mitsubishi

Insulation/Housewrap/Thermal and Moisture Barriers/Underlayment/Sheathing: Huber ZIP System

Lighting: ConTech, Nora

Lighting Control/Home Control: Lutron

Millwork: Custom

Paints: Sherwin-Williams (exterior), Benjamin Moore (interior)

Passage Doors: Maverick Door

Radiant Heating: Schluter Systems

Roofing: IB Roof Systems

Roof Windows/Skylights: VELUX, Glazing Vision

Shading: Phantom Shade

Sinks: Kohler, Custom

Toilets: Duravit

Tubs: Victoria & Albert (primary bath), Kohler

Ventilation: Panasonic (bath); Vent-A-Hood (kitchen)

Washer/Dryer: LG

Window Shading Systems: J Geiger

Wine Refrigeration: WhisperKOOL