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Specht Architects

Austin, TX and NYC
Photo: Taggart Sorensen

Regions Served

  • New York City & Mid-Atlantic
  • Texas & Southwest

Specht Architects is an innovative and creative architecture firm with rigorous standards for modern design. Our firm was founded on the vision of creating elegant, comfortable, and innovative buildings that are rooted in the unique environments in which they exist, and shaped by the character of the people who will inhabit them. Our offices are located in Austin, TX and NYC– but we have work all over the world.

Specht has been named as a “Top 100” architect by New York Magazine, and one of the “50 up and coming firms from around the world” by Wallpaper* magazine. Our firm has been featured in over 100 publications worldwide, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, for our work on private residences as well as our experimental projects like zeroHouse. In addition to press recognition, Specht Architects has received numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects, the Architectural League of New York, The Texas Society of Architects, and many others.

Details

Contact

Owner

  • Scott Specht, AIA

Locations

  • 3500 Oakmont Blvd, Suite 101
    Austin, TX 78731
    512-382-7938
  • 40 East 58th Street, Suite 6A
    New York, NY 10022
    212-239-1150

Featured Projects

Sundial House | Santa Fe, NM

This ridgetop house in Santa Fe is organized around two perpendicular board-formed concrete walls. The walls are an element of continuity, linking interior and exterior spaces and the landscape beyond. A narrow skylight runs the entire 125’ length of one of the walls, casting changing shadows on the rough concrete over the span of the day.

The front of the house is set deeply into the earth. You enter through a recessed courtyard and into a cool, private vestibule. An opening cut into one of the concrete walls then leads you into the main body of the house, where panoramic views of the Sangre de Christos mountains are revealed. Although there are large expanses of glass, they are all deeply shaded by cantilevered roof forms that create porches around the perimeter.

The house enhances a feeling of connection to the site, both physically, and temporally, and provides a true sense of shelter.

Photos: Taggart Sorensen

New Canaan Residence | New Canaan, CT

This residence, nestled into a clearing in a lush forested landscape, was designed to immerse its occupants in the full range of environments that the site offers. A winding drive brings visitors through the forest to arrive at an open hilltop court that is defined by the low, embracing form of the house. The house is built on a steep grade, with the entry on the second level, so as you move inside, the feeling of grounded horizontality becomes one of floating in the treetops. The tree canopy enfolds the interior space and creates a visual perimeter that changes with the seasons.
A staircase tucked behind the free-standing fireplace leads down to the lower level of the house, which is carved into the earth and gives onto the forest floor. The cozy nature of the lower level provides an experiential contrast to the expansive and light-filled level above.

Photos: Elizabeth Felicella

Casa Xixim | Tulum, Mexico

This villa hotel, on a narrow lot fronting a protected bay in Tulum, Mexico, is designed to be fully self-sufficient, and to immerse its occupants in the range of environments that the site offers. A narrow path brings visitors through dense vegetation to a large living- dining-kitchen space that is fully open to the beach beyond. The living spaces can be closed at night by a bank of large wooden louver panels that pocket into the walls.
Both sides of all bedrooms can also be fully opened, maximizing views and allowing prevailing winds to provide cooling. The house is powered by a photovoltaic canopy that shades a large rooftop hammock terrace. The terrace also collects rainwater that is filtered and stored for use. The house is grid-tied, produces no excess, and works in harmony with its surroundings.

Photos: Taggart Sorensen

Manhattan Micro-Loft | Manhattan, NY

This project involved the radical transformation of a tiny, awkward apartment at the top of a six-story building. The existing apartment had only 425 square feet of floor area, but a ceiling height of over 24 feet. The new design creates a flowing interior landscape that takes advantage of this height, allowing light to spill down from above, and creating a bright, open, and comfortable home.
The architectural strategy was to create four “living platforms” that accommodate everything necessary, while still allowing vertical space between the platforms. The spaces are stacked and interleaved, with a cantilevered bed that hovers out over the main living space, an ultra-compact bath tucked beneath the stair, and a roof garden with windows that allows light to cascade through the house. Every inch is put to use, with stairs featuring built-in storage units below, similar to Japanese kaidan dansu. The apartment is crafted like a piece of furniture, with hidden and transforming spaces for things and people.

Photos: Taggart Sorensen

Beach Haven Residence | Long Beach Island, NJ

This is a weekend residence on the Jersey Shore. The lot is on the beachfront, but very small, tucked away from the street, and had many code-regulated square-footage and height restrictions. The challenge was to create something open and light-filled that takes advantage of its beautiful setting, yet uses every available square inch of buildable area allowed by law.
The house was built for a family of five, and each child has their own, uniquely styled bedroom. It also features a guest room / office, lounge, elevated hot tub area, and a large living / dining / kitchen space all within a compact 2500 square foot envelope.
Techniques that are often used in boat building were used in the construction of the house. The roof is all fiberglass, and the exterior components all stainless steel. Windows are of the highest hurricane-rating available. Two types of cedar were used on the exterior, providing a contrasting sculptural form to the house.

Photo: Taggart Sorensen

Cliffside Residence | Austin, TX

Suspended on a narrow limestone ridge halfway down a cliff overlooking Lake Austin, this home was designed to enhance the drama of living in such an unusual natural setting. We opened up both the water side and the cliff-face side with large windows, and provided decks for outdoor living at multiple levels.
This was a major renovation of a deteriorating 1970’s-era house. The original entry was via a dangerous exterior ramp that ran from street level down to a front door 25’ below. The entry is now via a light-filled pavilion that overlooks the lake and opens onto a large rooftop herb garden. A sequence of stairs, supplemented by an elevator, descends through the three levels of the house, revealing views of both the lake and the limestone cliff as you work your way down.
Materials incorporated into the house include flooring that the owners salvaged, furniture made from a collection of industrial parts they collected, and stone from a quarry they frequented during vacations. The house expresses the unique and charming character of its owners

Photos: Andrea Calo

Modern Barn | Wilton, CT

This weekend retreat was designed for a couple who are actively engaged in the arts — he as a Broadway producer, she as a fashion editor. We were commissioned to reconstruct a historic barn which had been partially destroyed in a catastrophic fire, and to re-think the interior to become a new house for the couple and their two Labrador retrievers. The barn is one of several buildings which were once part of a working dairy farm.
We restored the exterior volumes of the barn and silo to remain contextual with the other farm buildings on the site. At the same time, the design team radically restructured the interior of the barn, removing the entire second floor and adding exterior buttresses to create a free volume within. What was formerly the lower level of the barn is now the main social space of the house. The master bedroom is a glass “perch” that looks down on the public spaces below. Simple and durable, yet elegant materials such as polished concrete, second-grade oak flooring, and maple plywood are used throughout. Interior and exterior connect visually through a wall of glass doors to the garden and fields beyond.

Photos: Michael Moran

Weston Residence | Weston, CT

The Weston Residence nestles in a valley adjacent to the Saugatuck River. It’s a small house, but takes advantage of its beautiful site in a way that purposefully blurs the distinction between the built and natural environment.
The house is approached from a road that begins high on a cliff above, and the first glimpse of the house is of its roof. In a way, the roof becomes the primary facade, so we turned the roofscape into a lush, green landscape. Terraces planted with year-round, region-specific succulents step down the hill, and bedrooms project out into these roof gardens, giving a feeling of being fully immersed in the landscape. The planted roofs are also integral to the high-performance building envelope.
Interior and exterior spaces are joined through views, portals, and material continuity. A glass-backed fireplace provides an elegant surprise. Like other glass houses, the landscape becomes the “decoration” for the rooms, playing with transparency during the day and reflectivity at night.

Photos: Taggart Sorensen

West Lake Hills Residence | West Lake Hills, TX

The existing house on this site was a small 1970s-era “French style” structure on a hilltop site with an expansive tree canopy. Our goal was to preserve all of the site’s large live oaks while creating a larger and more transparent house that allowed the landscape to flow through all the living spaces.
Our strategy was to weave a series of masonry support walls between the trees, and to lift the primary mass of the house off the ground plane. These walls extend across the site to form interior and exterior rooms, defining family spaces on the lower level, while supporting a “floating box” of enclosed bedroom and private spaces above.
A muted palette of materials at the lower level allows the views toward the landscape to predominate. At the upper level, the individuality of each family member is expressed with personally-chosen materials and colors.

Photos: Taggart Sorensen & Casey Dunn

Doyle Hall | Austin, TX

The Doyle Hall renovation and the New Classroom Addition at St. Edward’s University creates a green, highly-used public space from what was once an empty lot between two buildings. This courtyard is activated by the presence of a centuries-old live oak tree, a new cafe, and a mix of student and faculty spaces.
The New Classroom Addition takes cues from the adjacent existing 1950’s building with exposed concrete structural bays and straightforward infill panels. The addition creates a physical and visual link between the two existing buildings and brings students into the heart of a courtyard “embraced” by the two parallel wings of faculty offices. We deployed a “stealth architecture” that does not call attention to itself, but works as a fabric binding the existing elements together and allowing them to be seen and used in a completely new way.

Photos: Taggart Sorensen

Indeed.com Headquarters | Austin, TX

Indeed.com is a data-driven company. Information, and the flow of information is the basis of what they do. Our challenge was to find a way to represent this in architectural form — to create spaces that not only give the impression of a dynamic company that is highly connected and able to react to changes with great speed, but also to creatively represent the flows of data that form the core of the company.
We were able to meet these design challenges by creating public spaces that can change dramatically. The two-story lobby space is literally wrapped in huge screens that not only line the walls, but float overhead. These screens can create a multitude of immersive environments, from being in a calm forest, to floating in the middle of a torrential data stream, depending on the mood and feeling desired. These screens flow from the lobby into the café, dining area, and work areas, linking the public and private areas of the office. The graphics are reemphasized in the reflections of the glass railings, walls and storefronts.

Architect: Specht Architects in collaboration with Spector Group & STG Design

Photos: Andrea Calo & Casey Dunn

Weleda | Irvington, NY

We designed Weleda’s North American headquarters within the shell of a 19th-century factory along the Hudson River. One primary design intention was to expose and highlight the raw beauty of the original heavy timber structure, its brick walls, and large windows. Our interventions respect the character of the original building, while clearly registering a new use.
Adaptive reuse made perfect sense for Weleda, a world leader in promoting personal health and environmental stewardship. Desks, workstations, display shelving, and wall cladding were made of wood that was recycled from the other factory buildings that used to surround the Weleda building. Several woodworkers were employed as part of a local job-training program. Plant-growing areas were built into the space, allowing staff and visitors direct interaction with the materials from which Weleda’s products are made.
The space features not only offices and workstations, but an operating compounding pharmacy from which Weleda ships custom products to purchasers worldwide.

Photos: Taggart Sorensen

Barker | Manhattan, NY

The offices for Barker, an advertising and marketing firm based in lower Manhattan, are located in what was once the attic and elevator rooms of a 1920’s era skyscraper near Wall Street. The primary design intent was to open up this dim and somewhat claustrophobic space, and create a light-filled work center that emphasizes communal problem solving and creativity.
We expanded the space by clearing out all existing walls, and cutting a large opening in the floor of the former attic space. This is a rare type of modification in an older tall building, and took a good bit of engineering to make it work. We then crafted a winding, sculptural stair that forms the centerpiece of the office. It links the main lobby below to the group work and dining areas above.

OXO International | Chelsea, Manhattan, NY

Our design for the headquarters of OXO International was inspired by the rugged yet comfortable functionality of the company’s products.
Raw cork, cement board, finished maple, and sheet steel are the materials that form this warm and durable work environment. Light fixtures and shelving units were made with simple off-the-shelf parts, and existing surfaces, such as the industrial wood flooring and brick perimeter wall were left exposed.
OXO’s “Good Grips” line of housewares is prominently featured at the entry to the space. A custom display wall is fitted with operable shelves that can be configured to allow for a variety of presentation possibilities. Translucent panels at the back of the shelves allow glimpses of the products from within an adjacent conference room.

Photos: Michael Moran

Beast Productions | Austin, TX

This project involved the renovation and adaptive re-use of an existing single-story brick building in downtown Austin, TX. The structure, built in the 1920s, housed a variety of tenants through the years–from a mom-and-pop grocery to leasing offices for new urban condos. The current owner, a film-production company, was on an extremely tight budget and wanted to re-use as much of what existed as possible, while creating something that was uniquely “Austin” in character.
We embraced this spirit of frugality, re-purposing, assemblage, and local sourcing, and used many unique strategies in the space.  Re-sawn siding from a demolished building became a wall and ceiling surfacing that gives a great deal of character to the common areas. Raw, stock steel segments from a local supplier were used to fabricate interior partitions, space dividers, and kitchen installations. Cement backer-board, a common and rough material that is usually used an an underlayment for tile, was applied as another surface treatment. Cheap off-the-shelf chandeliers were painted and installed for feature lighting. Many existing interior partitions and surfaces were re-worked and re-installed, saving money and allowing traces of the space’s colorful history to be a part of the new use.

Photos: Taggart Sorensen

San Jacinto Building | Austin, TX

The original poured-in-place concrete warehouse in downtown Austin dates from the early 1900s and is a prime example of the type of building that once populated the neighborhood. Built alongside a once active railroad spur, the building was purchased from its original owner who had performed almost no alterations to the 1915 building. The original concrete frame and brick infill building had been in continuous use as an unconditioned storage space and suffered from what we call “benign neglect”—it hadn’t been upgraded, but it hadn’t been messed up, either.
The original three-level building was basically a concrete shell, without fire stairs, elevators, or any code-compliant utilities. The new owner desired to create three restaurant spaces on the ground floor, private club and storage spaces in the basement, and office spaces at the upper level. Our challenge was to provide all the amenities and services necessary for contemporary use, while retaining the character of the original warehouse building.
Rather than carving out a large portion of the interior of the existing building for stairs, elevators, mechanical shafts, restrooms, and other new items, we created a new “service structure” adjacent to the building. This not only allowed the unobstructed floor area to remain as large and flexible as possible, but also allowed us to create an expressive pavilion that marked entry to the building. The character of the new addition complements the raw, muscular functionalism of the original building while not attempting to replicate its details. It features open stairs, an articulated steel frame, and clerestory windows that allow light into the bathrooms and lobbies at the upper level.

Photos: Taggart Sorensen

zeroHouse

The zeroHouse is a small, prefabricated house that can be easily shipped and quickly assembled. It features a full kitchen, bath, and all elements necessary to comfortably support four adults. What sets the zeroHouse apart from other prefab structures on the market is its ability to operate independently, without the need for any external connections. The zeroHouse generates its own power, processes its own waste, collects and stores rainwater, and requires minimal maintenance.
zeroHouse can be used in many applications, including residential uses in remote or ecologically sensitive locations, as ecotourism resort units, or as living/office modules for remote employment such as mining, construction, or relief agency uses. With the zeroHouse you can line anywhere – comfortably.
If you’d like more information on the zeroHouse, including detailed specifications, please drop us a line in the contacts section of this site. We’d love for you to build one!

Photos: Renderings

Coverage on Remodelista & Gardenista

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