In 1959 the important mid-century architect Harwell Hamilton Harris built a 3-unit apartment building eight blocks west of the University of Texas, behind a single-family bungalow. The HHH units exist between a new entry courtyard with an exceptional live oak tree and a thicket of bamboo behind. An opportunity arose for us to purchase both buildings and the adjacent lot, which in turn allowed us to restore the buildings from their state of disrepair and add two more units to the complex.
The new duplex defines two private courtyards around mature persimmon and crepe myrtle trees, and like the HHH building, the units are organized to negotiate between these private spaces and the dense foliage of the adjacent tree canopy. Entry for both units is drawn deep into the compound and encouraging community amongst the occupants.
Hovering above the complex’s parking, Unit 2, the 1500 sf building boasts floor to ceiling windows to the courtyard while high windows provide a sense of seclusion and continuity with the trees and sky. A delicate steel stair allows access to a roof deck and 360º views. Meanwhile the rear, 2000 sf building (Unit 1), is organized around a double height interior space that opens generously onto a private courtyard.
The ensemble adds much needed density to this one time single-family neighborhood, although recent City of Austin compatibility ordinances will unfortunately no longer allow such a carefully orchestrated development.