In 1971, the same year David Lake arrived on the Forty Acres, the very first Schlotzsky’s opened amid a row of small, shuttered storefronts on South Congress Avenue. The previous year, Armadillo World Headquarters opened at the corner of South Congress and Barton Springs. There were signs of new life on the run-down street (once known as the bustling “Avenue,” in the 1800s) but it was a sleepy kind of rebirth. Guero’s Taco Bar was still Central Feed and Seed.
Lake, BS ’76, says that as a kid growing up in the Mount Bonnell neighborhood of Austin in the ’50s and ’60s — or even as an undergrad — he never could have imagined how that same stretch of pavement would look in 2020. Except today, five full city blocks of what is now Austin’s most vibrant and iconic street look exactly the way Lake imagined. He designed them.
Music Lane is a 140,000-square-foot mixed-use development adjacent to the new Hotel Magdalena, also designed by Lake | Flato. It’s all just the latest example of the kind of work Lake and his firm, which he co-founded in 1984 with Ted Flato, have been doing for decades. Lake | Flato: Nature, Place, Craft & Restraint, out this November from UT Press, is an exploration — and celebration — of some of the firm’s most striking creations. —Sofia Sokolove
Lake initially struggled with what he wanted to study at UT. Until he stumbled into the architecture school, which was once an old church on Dean Keeton (then 26th Street), and found a group of professors who spoke his language. “We didn’t know what to call it at the time — now we call it sustainability, or green building — but then it was just an idea of being resource and energy efficient,” he says. Lake, a self-described outdoorsman, has canoed every river in Texas start to finish, from the Colorado to the Rio Grande through far West Texas. The idea of overlaying a manmade environment onto the natural environment with the least
possible impact resonated with him then — and has been a central theme of his work since.
Bob Harris, MArch ’92, a partner at Lake | Flato and leader of the firm’s Eco-Conservation Studio, co-designed Confluence Park in San Antonio as a living laboratory — a place for visitors to learn, through participation, about the San Antonio River watershed. Concrete petals form a geometric shape that collects and funnels rainwater into a water enrichment system. “We were able to do something we’d never done before,” he says. “It’s a great confluence of many things, but in particular, the confluence between Earth and sky, and what that means.”
Lake calls Austin Central Library the “living room” of Austin: “We wanted a place to reflect the community of Austin — a place where knowledge is shared and transferred. So, there are screen porches, and the roof deck, and different ways of getting outdoors … because that’s what Austin loves.”
Lake visits the library every six weeks or so. “I’m like a junkie,” he says. “That’s the joy of being an architect — being able to wander back through something you created and see how it’s changed, how people are engaging differently. When people say they love the building … that’s what I would consider an accolade.”