Single-Family Residence | Houston, TX | 2017
| 7,500 Sq-Ft | Paper City Magazine, Sept 2022 |
The Big Three Industries building of 1974 was a late commission for the nationally recognized Houston-based, architectural practice of MacKie and Kamrath, known for bringing modernism and the stylistic influences of Frank Lloyd Wright to Houston. Wright’s Unity Temple of 1906 was likely Big Three’s source of inspiration, and 50 years after its construction, the four-story concrete structure continues to tower over warehouses, industrial buildings and residential complexes west of Houston’s historic Heights neighborhood. The current owners envisioned the top floor, once reserved for executive offices, as having enough space for their residence and apartment for guests and terraces.
Reimagining the top floor as a residence positioned rooms for entertaining and bedrooms at exterior walls for natural light and views. Terraces were created by pulling the glass windows back from the exterior wall; floor to ceiling sliding doors draw in Houston’s skyline as an urban backdrop for the east and west living areas. Four distinct interior gallery spaces each with its own skylight through the waffle slab provide places to view a growing art collection. Concrete surfaces that include both original sand-blasted exposed aggregate and vestigial wood graining from original wood formwork are juxtaposed with new painted gypsum board surfaces, new polished slab stone and sealed unpainted steel.
Karl Kamrath’s passion for modern architecture extended to the visual and performing arts. As a founding member of the Contemporary Arts Association, he designed the organization’s first building in 1950. Aware of and excited by this historical context, the owners commissioned artists to create site-specific work. An assemblage of five canvas-wrapped forms by Eduardo Portillo is activated by light from above. Light in a myriad of colors filters through an early Physichromie of Carlos Cruz-Diez, activating the walls and floor of the Entry Hall as the sun’s position changes.