Edgecliff Residence by Miró Rivera Architects

Edgecliff Residence is a project designed by Miró Rivera Architects. Taking advantage of its unique site in Austin’s eclectic Travis Heights neighborhood on the southern shores of Lady Bird Lake, the Edgecliff Residence is a play on contrasts: light and shadow, open and closed, organic and orthogonal. Designed for a couple of empty-nesters on a modest budget, the home’s contemporary aesthetic is balanced by the desire to respect the scale of the existing neighborhood. Photography by Ibai Rigby and Miró Rivera Architects.


Like the houses around it, the dwelling occupies a small lot on a quiet residential street. The design responds to its narrow site with an unusual, trapezoidal floor plan that is essentially one bay deep. The residence is divided into three levels in order to maximize views, with guest quarters at ground level, living spaces on the second floor, and the master suite at the highest level.

From the street, the Edgecliff Residence is characterized by a rainscreen made of galvanized electrical conduit—an inventive, low-cost solution that addresses several practical needs. Made up of 84 shop-fabricated panels, the majority of which follow a modular width of 3’-6”, the pipe screen provides shade and privacy while filtering and diffusing sunlight.

Beyond fulfilling these practical roles, the rainscreen is an artistic element that playfully reflects its particular setting. Throughout the day, the volume enclosed by the screen is alternately camouflaged and highlighted as the reflective metal responds to changes in the sun and sky. On a clear day, the shimmering screen provides a stark contrast to blue sky. But in the soft light of sunrise and sunset, the screen appears to dissolve.

In contrast to the street façade, with its ribbon windows and metal screen, the rear of the house opens up to the natural landscape and views of downtown Austin via large windows and cantilevered terraces. Below, the terrain falls away steeply to a public hike-and-bike trail before meeting the shores of Lady Bird Lake, itself a segment of the Colorado River that winds across the state of Texas.

The trapezoidal floor plan responds directly to the constraints of the long, narrow site—one side parallels the street while the other runs adjacent to the site’s natural contours. The lower level contains an open-air carport, foyer, and two guest rooms. Here at ground level, the terrain on the uphill side is retained by a low wall made of weathering steel.

The main level houses the kitchen, dining, and living spaces, tied together by a continuous wooden wainscot whose series of half-round profiles echoes the design of the conduit screen outside. The open floor plan highlights the dichotomy between the two halves of the site: ribbon windows screen the view of the street opposite picture windows that frame the treetops and lake. A sliding door opens onto a large outdoor deck that is connected to the yard via a staircase with a plate steel stringer.

The upper level includes the master suite as well as a private study and media room. Doors from the master bath and study open onto another outdoor terrace that offers sweeping views of downtown.

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