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Small Space, Big Honor

Local firm Specht Harpman nominated for Architizer A+ Award
Brandon Watson, 3:39pm, Thu. Feb. 28, 2013
photo by architizer.com
The Manhattan Micro Loft

Although buildings in central Texas have traditionally been more Miss Havisham than Daisy Buchanan, Specht Harpman may be giving Austin architecture some new character. The firm has been nominated for the prestigious Architizer A+ Awards - an annual separation of architectural wheat from chaff.

The firm is the only Austin-based finalist in a nominee list crowded with architectural giants like Norman Foster (the designer of much-filmed London Skyscraper 30 St Mary Axe) and SOM (famed for the brutalist LBJ Library, Dubai gargantua Burj Khalifa, and the One World Trade Center project.)

Among those goliaths, Specht Harpman has entered a 425-square-foot David. Its "Manhattan Micro Loft" is based on four "living platforms," with built-in storage similar to the Japanese chest kaidan dansu filling dead space. The entry is part of the "Living Small" category, focused on architectural achievement within a small footprint. It's an area that the firm has been exploring for years -- most notably with their off-the-grid zeroHouse concept.

Firm partner Scott Specht attributes the recent popularity of small space living to increased diversity in people's living preferences. "I don't think everyone feels the need for a lot of square footage, and some would prefer a small but well designed space. I live in about 800 square feet myself.  There can be environmental efficiencies with small living as well -- less area to heat and cool, less lighting and electricity use, less material, less space for things that may not be necessary or even desirable." The idea is even taking hold in Austin, whose less dense core allows for a little more breathing room. "It is great to see such a variety of modes of living becoming more common now in Austin, from micro housing, to multi-generational residences, to live-work mixed-use spaces.  It makes for a much more vibrant city life …"

Voting for the Architizer A+ Awards is open to the public through March 8.

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