The city’s aesthetic owes much to Austin architect Dick Clark and he’s not done yet by a long shot.
Just try to find an Austin neighborhood without his imprint. For 37 years, architect Dick Clark of Dick Clark + Associates has been responsible for some of Austin’s most breathtaking homes and standout commercial projects, shaping the city for the better and establishing the benchmark for contemporary design. Along the way, he has helped groom some of the biggest names on the design scene, including Jamie Chioco and Michael Hsu.
The majority of Austin’s hottest restaurants are the work of at least one of these talents. A visionary from day one, Clark—a tried-and-true urbanite—was one of the first to see the potential of downtown, opening his office in what’s now the Warehouse District more than 20 years ago. “When I came here, I had no audience. It was a town; now it’s a city,” recalls Clark, who not only has offices in downtown but helped launch its metamorphosis. He designed one of the area’s first fine-dining restaurants, Reed Clemons’ Mezzaluna, in 1992, shocking the sleepy barbecue and Mexican-joint town with a clean, modern aesthetic.
The city’s tendency toward “soft contemporary” homes that blend into and celebrate their surroundings also is mostly due to Clark. “I’m not trying to do a standalone piece of art,” he says. “My homes are livable.” Along with his usual full roster of residential clients— he has a staff of about 25, some of whom have been with him for more than two decades—Clark is dedicating much of his time to the $250 million redevelopment of The Backyard performance venue in Bee Cave outside of Austin.
The 50-acre project, developed by International Development Management and slated for construction to begin next year, will include a completely renovated outdoor venue; a boutique hotel called The Nelson (after Willie); a multifaceted restaurant, Bloom; office space; and condos. “It’s my biggest project,” says Clark, who is designing The Nelson and Bloom. “It will be a destination resort for Austinites.” Although Clark, who attended UT and Harvard and lived in many cities before settling in Austin, travels constantly for site visits around the country, he has no plans to leave. “The core people are the same—they’re the reason I stay here—and the spirit of Austin is the same. It’s changed for the better, actually.”