Architecture school can inspire fast friendships or fierce rivalries. Fortunately for Jim Poteet, AIA, and Patrick Ousey, AIA, shared studios at the University of Texas at Austin made them great pals. So when Poteet found his fledgling firm inundated with work too tempting to reject, he called on his comrade to help. “Because we had similar backgrounds and interests, we had this great easy shorthand,” Poteet says.
The tempting work in question evolved from an adaptive reuse project in San Antonio that Poteet had just completed for developer Steve Yndo: the conversion of a glass-manufacturing facility in a historic single-family residential neighborhood into loft-style condominiums. Neighbors weren't keen on the project's grit or its density, but Poteet and Yndo—both local residents—convinced them the brick-and-steel structures reflected the true story of the area. And the resulting critical mass of housing units would benefit everyone in other ways, they insisted. “We needed a grocery store,” Poteet says, “but we first needed higher density in order to sustain retail.”
Poteet felt strongly about keeping changes to the two buildings' exteriors to a minimum. “We wanted to change the use radically but save the character,” he explains. His key goal was to bring more natural light into the former factory interiors, so he preserved “the rhythm of existing fenestration” but upped the amount of glazing. Oversized existing steel windows were cleaned and reused, and new windows and doors were made to match. The biggest intervention is the addition of a full-length dormer to introduce light to upstairs rooms.
Once Poteet subdivided the buildings into units, Yndo sold the condos commercial style—by square footage. Interiors were bare bones with just party walls, plumbing, and HVAC equipment. Yndo reserved 4,000 square feet for his own family and hired Poteet to flesh it out. Poteet assumed other buyers might approach him as well, but he didn't expect to hear from nearly every owner. “They all seemed fun and different, and I didn't want to turn anyone away,” he says. Here Poteet turned to former schoolmate Ousey; the two started with Yndo's loft. A family with three young kids doesn't exactly fit the “loft-liver” profile, but the architects balanced industrial details with homey touches. A black-and-white color palette, with dirt-concealing black floors, generates a clean look both aesthetically and literally. An open floor plan on the ground level facilitates large gatherings, and the upper level offers zones of privacy and escape from the crowds.
For the UT alums, each step of the design process was a meeting of the minds. No formal arrangement or division of labor existed. Homeowners benefited from the double dose of talent, while Poteet and Ousey discovered their easygoing compatibility in everything from concept to details. “They foster individualism in school,” Poteet says, “but architecture at its best is a collaborative effort.”
King William Lofts
architect (exteriors)/construction supervisor:
Poteet Architects, San Antonio
architect (for most interiors):
Poteet Architects, San Antonio, and FAB Architecture, Austin, Texas
Steve Yndo, King William Lofts LP, San Antonio
2,000 square feet to 4,000 square feet per unit
$60 per square foot (exteriors only)
Started at $90 per square foot (for shells only)
number of units: