Houston’s StudioMET Creates Architectural Designs of Principle and Beauty that Win Awards

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The Houston-based design-build firm studioMET was recently honored with the 2017 Decorative Center Houston Stars of Design Award for Architecture. As the recipient of the 2016 Firm of the Year by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Houston, awards aren’t new to studioMET. With such prestigious prizes under its belt, the innovative firm is by no means complacent about its success. Of its most recent award, partner Shawn Gottschalk says this, “We are honored and humbled to be recognized by Decorative Center Houston among the other highly regarded honorees for their achievements and contributions to their professions. We couldn’t do what we do without our clients and amazing team of collaborators who continually strive to innovate and rethink what is possible with design.”

Due to its unique philosophy, studioMET, now in its tenth year of bringing distinctive design to Houstonians, maintains its position on the cutting edge of the industry. At the same time, it is dedicated to creating single family dwellings that are within its clients’ budgets and are both functional and beautiful. To borrow a quote from its website, “StudioMET is not about a specific style. We strive to redefine what it means to be modern and strongly believe in an architecture of authenticity. Our philosophy relies heavily on an individualistic approach to each design, and the success of the firm is built on listening to the needs of our clients.” StudioMET also strives to make architecturally designed homes accessible to everyone, not just to the rich or the hospitality sector, and to create designs that meet the client’s needs.

Not only is the firm’s philosophy distinctive, so is its approach. StudioMET takes a holistic approach to the services it offers. By combining both architecture and construction, the firm is able to bridge the gap that exists between the architect and the builder. This is an approach that suits its designers’, craftsmen’s, architects’, and artists’ areas of expertise and allows studioMET to “carefully balance the budget, quality, and schedule from conception to completion.”

The firm is also dedicated to producing architecture that is environmentally conscious. As a matter of fact, two of its partners, Stephen Andrews and Shawn Gottschalk, are Texas A&M University Environmental Design graduates. StudioMET believes that sustainability, though not the overriding one, should be a core principle in a project’s design and be made to fit in with the client’s design expectations. It also understands that something that isn’t affordable now may be in the future, so accommodating for future possibilities is important.

The firm’s partners, Yoonchul You, AIA; Stephen Andrews, AIA; and Shawn Gottschalk, AIA have over 45 years of experience between them. Licensed architects in the state of Texas, the trio specialize in planning, architecture, design, and construction. Noted for their adherence to excellence, as well as for their ground-breaking designs, the partners are responsible for the firm’s creations being featured in such publications as the Houston Chronicle, Modern Luxury Interiors Texas, Houston House & Home, Texas Architect Magazine, and The Architect’s Newspaper, to name only a few. Its structures have also been popular stops on the AIA Houston Home Tours since 2007 and on Houston Modern Home Tours. In international coverage, studioMET has been highlighted on the websites of ArchDaily Brasil, Plataforma Arquitectura, and Houzz Italia, as well as many others.

CKW Luxe had the pleasure recently of speaking with Shawn Gottschalk about studioMET and its accomplishments, its guiding principles, and Houston’s home-building industry.

CKW LUXE: StudioMET was conceived ten years ago as a design-build firm with a certain set of principles and a fixed philosophy. Can you tell us briefly what the original principles and philosophy were and how they have evolved as well as remained the same?

Shawn Gottschalk: Actually, our principles and philosophy have stayed the same.  From a broad perspective, one of our core philosophies is that good design should be accessible to everyone.  Getting into our approach on design, we strongly believe architecture should be conscious of the environment, appropriate to time and place, and an honest expression of structure and materiality.  Finally, we feel that our architect-led design-build approach that seamlessly integrates design and construction is critical to our process and success.  It is a return to a method that was employed during the 19th and early 20th centuries, in which the architect was the master builder, rather than merely the designer.  A primary goal of our multidisciplinary approach is to bridge the gap between the architect and builder in order to create an integrated and cohesive solution. We have found this approach best suits our clients' needs and ensures the highest quality project.

CKW: Congratulations on receiving the 2017 Decorative Center Houston Stars of Design Award for Architecture and the 2017 Houston PaperCity Design Award for Residential Architectural Design under 3,500 Square Feet. Please tell our readers what these honors mean to you and your firm.

SG: We are humbled to have received these awards and are very grateful to be recognized for doing what we are so passionate about.  We put an enormous amount of effort and heart into our work. Knowing people admire and appreciate what we do is very satisfying.  

CKW: Can you tell us how you have seen the Houston home-building industry evolve over the past ten years, and what kind of impact you think architects have on the community and culture of Houston?

SG: This is a great question; one we find ourselves continuously thinking about.  Houston is a fantastic city with all the opportunity in the world.  As most people know, we don't have zoning that defines some of the uniqueness you see in our city.  For us it is interesting because there are so many fantastic mid-century modern homes that were designed and built in Houston during the ‘50s and ‘60s. The pendulum then swung and led to a residential market that became builder driven.  We see that changing now; there are some fantastic architects doing great work in town.

CKW: You believe sustainability is a core part of a home’s design. In 2017, do most of your clients agree and support the component or can it be a sticking point?

SG: In today's world, you hear the words eco-friendly, environmentally conscious, sustainable, and many other terms used frequently in almost all facets of daily existence. For us, it is a basic principle of design that is integrated into every aspect of our design process.  At the end of the day, all of our clients want to incorporate sustainable design principles. However, the extent to which they are able is balanced by what their specific budget will allow for. 

CKW: Please tell us what you believe students of architecture in the 21st century need to know, and how important programs like the studioMET scholarship are in helping them prepare for their future careers.

SG: The first part of the question is one of my favorite topics to discuss, and I think it is because the answer is very simple. You are probably expecting to hear something about learning the newest latest and greatest technology, but no, that’s not the case. My advice is to get real-world experience and travel when and however you can.  There are too many young professionals entering the workforce not understating how things go together. It is just lines on paper.  Go work for a framer over the summer, or a plumber during fall break, and get out in the field away from the computer. Traveling is critical to experience, as is seeing places other than just those we know.  Whether you have the means to physically travel to different places, or if you are traveling through books and magazines, it doesn’t matter. 

As for the studioMET scholarship, giving back to the community and serving as mentors is something we care deeply about.  We want to support our next generation of architects, and that is why we created the studioMET scholarship program.  We are also in the midst of organizing a summer workshop with our studio where student will get hands-on experience.  

StudioMET is a design-build firm with principles and a desire to see Houston populated with functional, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing homes that people in all walks of life can commission and enjoy. Its holistic approach to architecture and commitment to building homes that are individual entities, no matter the budget, has earned it coveted architectural awards. Selected by experts in the field, this is no small feat. However, it makes perfect sense. In studioMET’s well-conceived creations, the attention to detail, adherence to the client’s needs and wishes, and the flow of the design are readily discernable and appreciated by connoisseurs, observers, and owners alike.

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