David Lake and Ted Flato started their own firm in 1984 after the death of their mentor O'Neil Ford. The firm’s vernacular architecture is illustrated by the recent University of Texas Press, Austin publication Lake|Flato Houses: Embracing The Landscape, which highlights homes through color photography and watercolors.
Watercolor paintings by artist and architect Matt Morris illustrate each chapter. Palettes of cerulean and cobalt blues, viridian green, amber and cadmium orange reflect site-specific materials found in nature: brush-land, desert, hillside, mountains, cities and water.
Hyper-local designs for each place are inspired by environmental constraints such as the desert and the slopes and soil changes of the hills. The work of Lake and Flato is referenced several times in the book as poetry and connective tissue. There is a dialogue between land and design attuned to the natural elements of land, wind, water and sun.
Discussing the influences of Charles Eames with nature as the design inspiration to unite the indoors with the outdoors and Frank Lloyd Wright's organic approaches resonate with the designs from room to room in circulation with porches to maximize connections. Each designed space is specific to its place and site. The site and the climate determine the views, breezes and solar orientation. Lake|Flato prefaces the book with their philosophy: "We believed first and foremost that architecture should be rooted in its particular place, responding in a meaningful way to the natural or built environment."
Their philosophy and aesthetic is harmonious with the nature of the landscape. The scale is small and the craft is high, with hand-selected finishes and millwork. Each home is a personal response, a meaningful project with local materials such as steel pipe fencing, corrugated, perforated, galvanized and low-maintenance metal, movable slats, native stone paving, indigenous landscaping, glass, stucco, sod roofs and quarried limestone. Porches connect to pavilion structures bringing the outside in. The shade structures dance with sunlight and water, framing views relevant to the site. Each element of the design reflects the time of day or year, bringing the exterior inside to create a natural environment.
"Their translation into architecture can serve as a lesson for us all: how a building stands to the sun, how it welcomes the cooling breeze, how it partners with plant materials. Nothing sensational or exotic, no visual firework of fashion, just architecture that intrigues the mind, delights the soul, and refreshes the eye with its elegant detail and simplicity. Timeless architecture needn't shout,” late architect William Turnbull wrote of Lake/Flato.
Geography, topography and climate considerations reflect Lake|Flato's commitment to the environment with LEED certified, carbon neutral buildings. Receiving international and national recognition for over 150 projects, Lake|Flato has been recognized by The American Institute of Architects as one of the nation’s best firms. In 2013, Lake|Flato won the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture. In 2014, Centro recognized the Briscoe Western Art Museum as the best adaptive reuse project. Recently, several of Lake|Flato's projects have been selected as national Top 10 Green Projects by the AIA COTE.
On Tuesday (June 10) at Parman Library, Lake-Flato partners Karla Greer and Brian Korte will join Frederick Steiner, Dean of the School of Architecture at The University of Texas, for a discussion about individual design projects featured in the book, which will be available for purchase onsite, courtesy of the Twig Book Shop.
Free, 6:30-8pm Tue, June 10, Parman Branch Library at Stone Oak, 20735 Wilderness Oak, (210) 207-2703, thetwig.indiebound.com.