The beloved 14-acre site, home to b’s 1916 villa and, now, the sprawling b, is set to undergo a multiphase face-lift. The first step is to break ground March 21 on a new $6 million guest-friendly entrance complex and improvements to the verges of West 35th Street.
Top arts news of the week: UT opens Ellsworth Kelly masterpiece at the Blanton Museum of Art. Although museum members, directors and backers have peeked inside the chapel-like building on campus, everyone can see it during regular museum hours beginning Feb. 18. Check into the Visitors Services desk in the east wing of the museum first. And go on a sunny morning for the best light show.
“Patches of color drip ever so slowly down the walls, then pool onto the smooth black granite floor. On sunny days, the tall white barrel vaults swim with jewel-toned iridescence.
“Not only do the intense hues migrate minute by minute, they alter from day to day according to the position of the sun above “Austin,” a phenomenal new building that doubles as a monumental work of art on the University of Texas campus.”
This story about how Heather McKinney and Brian Carlson of McKinney York Architects helped artist and educator Katelena Hernandez Cowles and her husband, financial planer James Cowles, plan a home fit for the rest of their lives has enjoyed an afterlife on social media.
Cut straight to the crucial tip: Talk to your designer. And listen. You probably won’t be sorry.
Fourteen years ago, Katelena Hernandez Cowles and James Cowles talked and listened to Heather McKinney and Brian Carlson of McKinney York Architects. And they could not be happier with their pliable three-story Tarrytown house built above a dry creek for the couple and their two children, Celia and Gabriel.
Instead of limiting their ideas to the wants and needs of the time, they collaborated with their architects to cook up a house that they can adapt for the rest of their lives, taking into account inevitabilities such as maturing children, aging parents and life’s hard-to-predict thunderbolts.
Take their tall, airy living room flanked on two sides by hanging art and on the other two sides by a long, open kitchen and a tree-friendly deck with a fireplace. At first, the creative and energetic family furnished this inviting central room with four cozy, double-wide chairs equipped with wheels, since the room’s function fluctuated wildly.
“When kids were young, we’d clear the chairs out of the way to set up huge wooden train-track layouts and had group painting sessions with long rolls of paper, science experiments, paper airplane battles from the balcony down into washtubs on floor,” says Katelena, 46, an artist and educator. “The kids learned to ride bikes and to roller skate in a circular pattern around the central staircase. The Brazilian cumaru wood flooring was so hard it was indestructible. We finally resealed the main floor 11 years later.”
Two barnlike stone structures once stood abandoned in South Austin. One rested on a hill with a view of the city; the other, located farther south, spread out on lush flats near a creek and railroad tracks.
Separately in the 1950s, these old buildings were transformed into residences and studios by important Austin artists who were friends — until they were not.
Miraculously, both these partially modernist but stubbornly rustic retreats have been preserved, one in private hands, the other in public. While their separate histories have been told, their connections are still being made.
The onetime friends were sculptor Charles Umlauf and muralist Seymour Fogel.
Umlauf, who died in 1994, was a longtime University of Texas teacher and a prolific maker of flowing figures, many of which can be spotted all over town. He is best known these days as the namesake of and chief artistic contributor to the city-owned Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, just east of Zilker Park. Others remember him as the artistic mentor of late actress Farrah Fawcett while she studied at UT.
Fogel, who left Austin in 1959 and died in 1984, is less well remembered locally, despite his cultlike status among fans of midcentury modern Texas art. Perhaps his most visible legacy in Austin is the gorgeously preserved large mural inside the Starr Building, originally home to the American National Bank, now smartly occupied by the McGarrah Jesse marketing agency at 121 W. Sixth St. …