The finished product is spectacular. The starting point was every architect’s nightmare. The location was fine, but the nineteen-nineties house was musty and dull. A successful businessman and philanthropist from Austin, Texas, bought it, intending to convert it to his own tastes with a few simple interventions. However, architect Winn Wittmann was obliged to tell him that the existing house was in such a deplorable state that the only solution was a complete make-over. Not an attractive prospect, particularly since earlier modifications had to be undone. The owner allowed himself to be persuaded, primarily because he, the architect and the contractor had grown to trust one another. The result is a modern house with refreshing details. A location that also accommodates the extensive collections of cars and of rock ’n roll memorabilia.
There was nothing wrong with the location, on the banks of Lake Travis,Austin in the American state of Texas, but the house was a typical product of the nineteen-nineties - large, pretentious and lacking in taste. The new owner wanted to transform it into a modern 1stcentury complex reflecting his flamboyant style and having room for his exotic collections. It was up to the architect Winn Wittmann to translate the owner’s lifestyle into a full narrative of form, materials, colours, decoration and light.Two architects had already declined the job, but clearly Wittmann saw the project’s unique opportunities. However, he first had to warn the owner that the state of the house was such that a thorough renovation was essential. Also,work that was already underway had to be redone, including the piano-shaped swimming pool in the ground-floor living room. The architect and the contractor, Gary Robinson, went to a great deal of trouble to gain the client’s trust in order to realise their plans. It was worth it and, as time went by, each member of the team became progressively enthusiastic and the spectacular project could be completed successfully.
The renovation process began with the front façade.As it was, it would not exactly have won any prizes for aesthetics, nor was it built with the sun in mind.To that end, the architect designed a system of aluminium panels in a steel frame that was to cover the entire outdoor wall.A water laser technique was used to cut enlarged fleur-de-lis patterns into the panels. They are decorative as such, but also make for vibrant, ever-changing shadows on the house. At night, the changing colours of LED lamps produce a dramatic effect. The same pattern is repeated in the rest of the house, for instance in the partition screening the entrance from the cabana. The entrance gate was replaced with large steel and aluminium doors and, when opened, they afford the visitors a view of the house in all its splendour,with, on either side, the glass-fronted garages containing the car collection. Lake Travis can be seen in the background, through the large open space cut into the building. The garage floors are in white ceramic tiles with a carbon fibre pattern. The exotic racing cars housed there are illuminated at night with LEDs and fluorescent lighting.
The house itself comprises three floors, with the entrance and spiral staircase at ground level at one side. Behind the entrance is the cabana. At the other side, there is a guest suite completely overlooking the lake.On the first floor, a large sitting area is located centrally above the open passageway. The part above the guest suite contains the kitchen and dining room. The third floor is divided into a work-out zone and an entertainment wing. What strikes you about the interior is its spaciousness; not only because of the high ceilings, but also the considerable uniformity of materials and colours.Moreover, there is little furniture, creating openness in the interior; consequently, the imposing view of Lake Travis can be enjoyed to the full. In the kitchen too an effort has been made to restrict the use of different materials to a minimum.Worktops and floor are in the same Caesar stone - a highquality, hard-wearing quartz composite.Originally all the appliances were arranged along the external wall, but the architect decided to concentrate them in a kitchen island, making room for cabinets custom- designed and built for this space.
One of the most striking features of the house is the swimming pool, whichWinnWittmann made into a peerless place to swim and relax. He designed a negative-edge pool, which seems to rise up out of the lake itself. Part of the pool is shallow: a creation inspired by the pool at Philippe Starck’s Mondrian Hotel in Miami. Hot and cold tubs have been introduced at a slightly higher level at either edge. Also, flanking the pool, there are small lawns, partitioned off with glass in order not to interrupt the view. Even the colour of the glass was carefully chosen to maintain the harmony with the colour of the lake. Although, in view of his experiences with previous architects, the house owner had little confidence in a successful outcome, Winn Wittmann and Gary Robinson succeeded in restoring his confidence. The close ties they all built up during the building process meant that they were able to take the project to ever greater heights - the results can now be admired in Acqua Villa.