2023 RDAA | Custom Urban House | Courtyard House | Lake|Flato Architects

“Courtyard House is so place based; it couldn’t be anywhere else,” the jury said. From its tall gabion landscape walls filled with stone from the Franklin Mountains on the horizon, to its gravel courtyard, 8-foot overhangs, and the use of COR-TEN steel and board-formed concrete, the design exhibits a firm grasp on the realities of living in El Paso. “El Paso is a tough environment, very dry, and the sun is intense,” says project manager Steve Raike, AIA. “We looked for a material palette that would be durable for the long run.” Those materials turn poetic in Lake | Flato’s hands. 

Designed for entertaining, retreat, and a car collection, the U-shaped Courtyard House faces the original house across a large gravel square. The owner commissioned the main house when he was a bachelor. Now married with a family, he took the opportunity to purchase the adjacent property and make a two-building composition. “Bringing in the car collection, which was formerly housed in a warehouse, was a big part of the design,” Steve says. “He also has a wine collection and a lot of art; this project was all about creating those spaces the house didn’t have, but also to provide an office space, a craft and work room for his kids, and a gym and spa.”

In response to the main house’s site-cast concrete, the new building has concrete walls that screen the neighbors but is far more open and brighter, with floor-to-ceiling glass that focuses the view on the courtyard, and deep, COR-TEN-covered porches that overlook it. The COR-TEN and the gabion stone, with its high iron content, supply dark, rich reds that blend with the earth in that part of Texas and help to warm the concrete. The interior’s quartersawn walnut millwork and oak ceiling slats are equally inviting. “We used wood in places where you touch and interact with it,” Steve says. A curvaceous spa tub was formed from a single piece of sandstone, and the wall behind it is a patinaed bronze panel. “The wall has an undulating quality with built-in lights that throw light up and down the wall at night,” Steve says. An outdoor kitchen, shower, and meditation space commune with the courtyard.

Given El Paso’s arid climate, Courtyard House goes above and beyond its civic duty to harvest the seasonal downpours. Underground stormwater channels in the parking areas and courtyard capture more than the volume of precipitation required by jurisdiction and release it to the water table. And solar arrays on the low roof slope generate about 35 kilowatts of power—enough to feed back to the utility grid. The judges applauded these measures that not only impart an unmistakable sense of belonging, but are beautifully executed.

Honor Award

Custom Urban House

Lake|Flato Architects

Courtyard House

El Paso, Texas

Project Credits

Architect: Partner in charge: Steve Raike, AIA, Lake | Flato Architects, San Antonio, Texas

Builder: The Construction Zone, Phoenix, Arizona

Interior designer: Pamela Dailey and Lake | Flato Architects, San Antonio

Landscape architect: Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Austin, Texas

Structural engineer: Architectural Engineers Collaborative, Austin

MEP engineer: Collaborative Engineering Group, Houston

Lighting design: Mazzetti, Denver, Colorado

Project size: 11,674 square feet

Site size: 1 acre

Construction cost: Withheld

Photography: Casey Dunn

Key Products:

Cabinetry: Bulthaup

Cladding: COR-TEN steel

Cooktop/Ovens: Wolf

Dishwasher: Miele

Door hardware: Dormakaba 

Faucets: Boffi

Fireplace: Spark Modern Fires

Flooring: Muscanell Millworks

Garage doors: Overhead Door Co.

HVAC systems: Daikin VRV

Icemaker: Scotsman

Lighting: Delray, Lumen, Ingo Maurer, Holly Hunt

Outdoor grill: Kalamazoo

Radiant heating: Bromic Heating

Refrigerator: Sub-Zero

Roofing: Carlisle TPO

Sinks: Franke

Toilets: TOTO

Tub: Stone Forest

Windows and doors: Brombal

Window shading systems: Lutron