Leslie Elkins Architecture is a well-acclaimed architectural firm known for its cost-effective, sustainable construction while considering the client’s ideas in a site-responsive manner. Established in Houston, a city known for its large and bold architecture, this firm sticks to quiet intimately scaled buildings reflected through a subtle blend of natural and artificial lights. Their strong belief in an intuitive space not labeled as a building, but a transient connection between the shelter and openness subtly reflected in its simple yet sophisticated designs. Simplicity to them is not excessive minimalism, but it is presenting themselves with directness using minimal materials.
1. LIVE OAK FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE
The ambiance changes with passing time, The Live Oak Friends Meeting House is one such structure with interiors resembling the various moods of a human being. Located in a densely wooded site in North Houston, the structure constitutes three buildings including the Quaker Meeting Space, recognized by artist James Turrell’s 12-foot square window “Skyspace”. The light infiltrating the space is symbolic of The Almighty in Quaker religion. Transition spaces separate the meeting space from the ancillary spaces to maintain the silent aura of the common area. Long porches wrap around the building to provide shade from the heat during the summer months.
2. MUSTARD SEED RESALE SHOP OF MAGNIFICAT HOUSE INC.
Magnificat House Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization that supports the homeless, mentally challenged, and post offender men and women by helping them restore themselves into society. The Mustard Seed Resale shop in Houston is one of the training centers offered by the MHI along with the woodworking shop, art studio/ gallery, and facility maintenance office. This single-story shop with a butterfly wooden roof supported by steel columns is LEED Silver-rated for its ecologically sensitive design. The open and lively interiors have grey and white toned walls, with concrete floors and the clerestory window surrounding the shop infiltrating natural light and ventilation into the room.
3. LORA JEAN KILROY VISITOR AND EDUCATION CENTER
The Visitor and Education Centre in Bayou Bend was the former house of philanthropist Ima Hogg acquired in the 1970s by The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Surrounded by eight formal gardens on a fourteen-acre site noted for the rare flowers and herbs, the house is the only public garden in Texas. The museum displays one of the most exquisite collections of American furnishings, silver, ceramic, and paintings in the world, together with Kitty King Powell Library, meeting hall, and classrooms. The double-height common space at the entrance with a sliding door opening into the garden brings natural light into the house. The lighting and HVAC used are technologically advanced yet built in a sensitive and cost-effective approach, making it yet another building that is LEED approved.
4. LEARNING CENTER FOR THEATRE WORKSHOPS
An Avant-Garde artist and theatre-opera director Robert Wilson approached the architect with a property previously a research and development office for Western Union in Watermill, a lush green hamlet located at the highest point in Long Island, New York. The office converted to The Watermill Centre, an interdisciplinary laboratory for the arts and humanities along with dormitories, kitchen, and dining facility. The renovation maintained the original plan of the old structure by making use of the central tower uniting the living and working spaces while incorporating elements of traditional Indonesian architecture. The seemingly symmetrical structure characteristic of the Bauhaus with the facade getting a new face according to themes amidst the thick forests is a refreshing sight.
5. RESIDENCE REMODEL AND ADDITION
The owners of this 1930 Tudor Home in Houston desired a modernized interior with minimal changes to the exterior. A green-tinted glass structure surrounded by a pool on three sides and a stone terrace on the fourth attaches itself as it is to the back of the dark bricked medieval revival styled home is a bold choice that surprisingly suits well. The roofs split into multiple cross-gables with massive ornate chimneys matched to the slope of the K-wall roof attached to the glass structure. The existing dining room merges into the former kitchen that opens into the glass structure addition.
6. RESIDENCE REMODEL
This residential project in Houston is an example of a home that meets all necessities and comfort within the radar of strict site and budget constraints. Renovated for an aged woman who lives next door to her daughter, the home must be a private space yet accessible to her family with few windows while letting in ample light and ventilation. Thus came an energy-efficient building with few openings to the west, a glass opening on the east face, and operable windows on both north and south faces, allowing cross ventilation while the windows open. The zoning of the house into the east (private) and west (public), where the inner circulation permits entry into the east wing without access to the west, hence not compromising the privacy of the owner.
7. ARTIST STUDIO
A modest home located in a historic neighborhood in Houston for an artist and his wife accommodating a studio and garage with each space divided frugally was a challenging responsibility handed to the architect. The linear olive green facade of the house lets in softened light into the rooms through the polycarbonate sheet used as a replacement to glass in the clerestory openings on the studio that rests upon the garage. The intimate scale of the home brings a sense of happiness in finding comfort in a space personalized just for the owners. The integration of the shower into the bathroom and the elimination of doors are economical choices taken to free up wall and room space.
8. TIEL WAY RESIDENCE
Constructed in 1950, which remained vacated for seventeen years, renovation of the Tiel Way Residence in Houston involves solving a deeper issue apart from enlarging the small and dim-lit rooms. The densely forested site is unique and has a lot to offer to an energy-efficient building by letting it breathe with nature. Eliminating inner walls to expand the rooms while introducing natural light inside with due consideration of privacy is a crucial step in the renovation of this building. With the growth in the owner’s family, two additional bedrooms and a bath will attach to the existing structure. Other updates include changing the position of the entrance gate and the updated kitchen.
9. NEW RESIDENCE
A gated garden with the structure not filling up the entire site is a rare sight in Houston. The garden wall surrounding this two-story structure is tall enough to provide privacy from the living spaces. Maintaining existing trees and landscapes also aids in achieving solitude while bringing sufficient fresh air into the rooms. The living area recognized by the elegant spiral staircase spreads out into the expansive lush gardens. Terrazzo flooring flows out from the living areas until the bedrooms, which is one of the most durable and sustainable options available as far as flooring is concerned. The logical placement of natural light and ventilations maintains the perfect indoor climate throughout the year.
10. WEST MEADOWS RESIDENCE
This wooden built cottage residence in Telluride with the mesmerizing Wilson Peak in the backdrop will forever stay as a painting in the minds of anyone who catches a glimpse from a distance. In addition to framing this breath-taking view, the owner wanted to reuse wood from their Tobacco barns in Tennessee and extend every bedroom into the exterior landscape. A sense of warmth engulfs on entering the majestic rooms with the massive fireplace blazing at a distance. The smooth concrete floors complement with the barn wood and stone used for the walls, adding an exquisite touch to the design. Although the plan is a simple rectangle, the facade brings about dynamism and changing moods with time.
11. BASALT HIGHLANDS RESIDENCE
Located in the backdrop of the majestic Sopris Mountain, this residence gives way into multiple rows of art galleries owned by an art-enthusiast couple. One of the main challenges posed while construction is in being conscious of protecting the painting from direct sunlight with the use of artificial lighting that captures the little details in the art. The vertical zoning of the house separates the house with the middle level called “Guest House” while the upper level is called the “Main House”, allowing a private niche for the owners. The glass walls that enclose the top bedrooms eventually opens into an ever-stretched terrace with the view of the snow-peaked mountains.
12. ANTONIO’S HOUSE
This small weekend house inspired by Classic Texas homes is a simple wooden framed home with a view to front and back from all the rooms. The two-story porch that runs around the house, which is an integral part of the main volume of the house, is accessible from most rooms. The well-maintained green lawns stretch out like a carpet with two small ponds and a couple of trees, resembling a typical Houston house about 150 years ago. Moreover, the planning of the house incorporates a “dog-trot”, which is a breezeway that cuts through the plan to receive fresh air.
13. GLASS FOR AIRPORT BRIDGE
As a part of a public project to build four pedestrian bridges at George Bush International Airport in Houston, the architect joined the team to design a glass panel. This glazed glass installs itself onto the steel framework of the bridge. The panels fitted consider the environmental demands into account and designed in an energy-efficient manner. Each of these panels has additional drops of glass etched into it to achieve subtle refraction and reflection of light, thus maintaining the temperature and light intensity within the bridge. The panels also assist in shielding unwanted views from outside while allowing natural light.
14. SHADE STRUCTURE AND PLANTING
Lyons Village, a multi-use residential project in Houston, proposed a shaded structure in a residual plot between two brick buildings with four air conditioners placed. The structure must be within a reasonable budget using sustainable material alternatives. A hollow concrete platform raises the entire installation so that the shaded area comes into notice amidst the enormity of the neighboring buildings. The ground filled with grass and a narrow stone-paved walkway around the shaded structure has bamboo planted on the right side to attenuate the overwhelming height of the two buildings. It comprises a blue-tiled long bench about eight-foot long with a minimalistic cover over it supported using steel pipes.
15. BARCHITECTURE 2012
Barchitecture refers to architecture for dogs, but what makes this interesting is in its easy conversion into a coffee table. Made entirely of wood joined together, this table includes shutters on either side lifts to an angle of 90 degrees. Each side of the table, including the two openable flaps, has a series of thin wooden blocks hammered on to the frame, allowing ventilation into the table while the dog rests within. The shutters also act as a shade for puppies or other animals and clasps horizontally with inbuilt hinges. The table is easy to handle and transported according to use.