Mason County News
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Architecture & Design - Telling Stories
In My Opinion
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 • Posted May 9, 2012

I've always been fascinated by buildings and their relationship to their environment. As a young Boy Scout, I remember camping down at Camp Gene Ashby and exploring some of the old house ruins in the area. After almost a century, and even in a state of decay, the buildings still told a story of the early pioneers that settled the area.

After high school graduation, I remember learning the different neighborhoods of Austin and seeing the way urban neighborhoods had developed in the capitol city. There were the wonderful old Victorian homes of Bremen Square, tucked directly next to blocky modern office buildings, all in the shadow of the majestic Capitol building.

During my years in Austin, I saw the architectural landscape change drastically. For years, the town had been limited to a few neighborhoods: Pease, South Congress, Deep Eddy, Pemberton Heights, Eastside, Campus, etc. By the late 1970s, enrollment at UT exploded, the technology industry had found Austin, and the city began growing rapidly. As a result, neighborhoods suddenly began to be built in the northern and southern corridors. Unlike the existing parts of Austin that had grown up over fifty years, these new developments appeared overnight. And, rather than being sold lot by lot over time, suburbia was sold neighborhood by neighborhood.

The architecture was standardized, inexpensive to build, and based upon models developed for Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix or San Diego. The homes had very little personality, the trees and greenspaces were eliminated, and asphalt was the predominant landscaping feature. Even the most expensive neighborhoods were not immune from such boring development. The homes were bigger, had nicer landscaping, and larger garages; but, they were still more a reflection of construction economics rather than design.

There were exceptions. I remember a home on the shore of Lake Austin that incorporated native materials, xeriscaped lawn and plantings, and design elements based upon Hill County rock buildings. Of course, the home had over 6,000 square feet, so it was still a bit overdone; but, it showed that good things could still be done with new buildings.

When I moved back to Mason, it was a bit of a relief to see that there had not been a great deal of construction during my absence. And, as new homes did start being constructed around the county, many of them contained design features that reflected our own heritage, while also acknowledging the advances that had been made in construction and technology.

It's always fun to watch a new home being built in Mason County. There is seldom any real "privacy" about a new home's construction, as Mason residents treat a construction site as a public attraction. We are all attracted to the site, from its initial excavation, to its foundation, framing, interior finish-out and final landscaping. By the time the new residents move in, most of the county has already memorized the layout of rooms, and are only waiting to see how the house has been furnished.

When the Republican Women have their annual home tour, one of the reasons everyone responds so well is that everyone wants to see how things finally turned out in the finished building. Groups of friends tour from home to home, evaluating features as they make their tour.

Drive through the many neighborhoods of Mason and take a close look at the homes. Take note of the trees and plantings and the house's relationship to its neighbors.

I began rethinking my attraction to architecture when I saw that the Seaquist Home is now on the market. This gem of Mason used native materials, local craftsmen and situated itself on the banks of Comanche Creek at the north end of town. The Seaquist family has done an admirable job of maintaining the home and preserving its charm. Soon, someone else will pick up that yolk and become the newest stewards of one of Mason's treasures.

Thank the Seaquists for their care over these many years, and welcome the new owners as they take up the cause.

It’s all just my opinion.

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