Tucked away among dense vegetation on a steep site in West Austin, the Vista Residence captures a sense of exploration and discovery. Designed for a couple nearing retirement age, the home’s many spaces and experiences are gradually revealed in spectacular fashion.
Project Name: Vista Residence
Studio Name: Miró Rivera Architects
Location: Austin, Texas
Photography: Paul Finkel
A series of massive concrete walls extends out into the landscape, drawing visitors in. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide a glimpse of the central staircase and the views beyond, while the metal roof sweeps upward in a low, graceful arc. Exposed concrete, metal, and concrete panel cladding—chosen for their ease of maintenance—are the predominant materials.
The distinct roof profiles provide directionality, essentially “pointing” to the views beyond. The innovative cladding system of concrete panels doubles as a rainscreen, protecting the structure from the elements and providing increased thermal efficiency.
In the foyer, walls and white oak floors introduce the home’s warm material palette, while a nine-foot-tall pivot door greets visitors. A bridge-like corridor leading to the master suite opens up to a two-story, open-air courtyard.
The master bedroom is enclosed on three sides, emphasizing the view outward, while the low-slung roof and deep eaves create a sense of horizontality. The bed, nightstands, and light shelf were designed by the architects. The palette of cool grays and white marble in the master bathroom echoes the exterior finishes, while the tub and shower open up to a private garden.
The home is organized around a central, three-story staircase constructed of 5/8” thick plate steel. The stair acts as a hingepoint for the various programs, with rooms and hallways unfolding from it on every floor. From the spaces around it, the stair provides a dramatic focal point, revealing itself in curious and contradictory ways. Depending on the viewpoint, it can appear massive and structural, or light enough to float.
The open kitchen, dining, and living spaces were designed for large family gatherings as well as fundraisers and public events. The kitchen combines white oak millwork with crisp white solid surface accents. In the living room, acoustic wood ceiling panels enhance the sound quality and provide visual warmth, while built-in benches and steps allow guests to find a comfortable corner.
Partially buried in the hillside, the lower floor hosts two bedrooms, a shared bath, and a media/game room in addition to mechanical and storage spaces. Finishes such as exposed concrete and playful accents denote the more laid-back, intimate atmosphere.
Upstairs, a private office and sitting room enjoy panoramic views of the hill country and downtown Austin. A spacious balcony is carved into the roof of the main level. Here above the treetops, the home’s spectacular location is experienced most vividly as the journey culminates with a sweeping vista.
A 15.4-kiloWatt rooftop photovoltaic system covers an estimated 90% of the home’s annual energy needs, offsetting 18.5 tons of CO2 emissions each year (equal to the annual energy use of 1.8 average homes). Deep overhangs on the south facades reduce heat gain, while large windows and the central light well reduce the demand for artificial light. A variable refrigerant flow (VRF) mechanical system optimizes power consumption, allowing for precise thermal control throughout the house and eliminating heating and cooling waste.