design with purpose
An architect’s personal home incorporates modernism into a desert landscape
Edward McCormick knew early on in life what his future held. “In school, I had a strong interest in drawing, painting, and all the arts, and I knew at age nine that I wanted to be an architect,” he recounts. Never wavering from his course, McCormick opened his own architectural firm in El Paso in 1982. Today, McCormick is putting the final touches on his personal residence, a project he says is a union of the more than 300 homes and 2,000 commercial buildings he has designed over the past 37 years.
“I feel my designs relate to the climate and culture of the area and the personalities of the clients themselves,” McCormick says. “In my case, we have a desert climate, and the culture has a strong Hispanic influence. I enjoy color, and the clean, modern lines reflect my personality.”
McCormick Architecture embraces the design philosophy embodied in the 1976 book Architect as Builder: “We must learn to understand humanity better so that we can create an environment that is more beneficial to people, more rewarding, more pleasant to experience.” With this mindset, the firm has successfully brought a touch of modernism to the Southwest, an area that often favors historical styles. It is a testament to McCormick’s ability to harmoniously incorporate defining elements of the region into contemporary designs, a craft he has perfected in the creation of his own home.
“My house has horizontal lines to parallel the lines of the desert,” says McCormick. “Massing elements purposely contrast these lines, mirroring the contrast between the mountains and desert of El Paso. It’s an architectural statement, aided by color, that picks up the essence of the Southwest and the culture of the area through texture, form, and light.”
During the design process, McCormick visited the build site frequently—often with a sketchpad and occasionally with a bottle of wine. Determined to build a home “of the mountain, not on the mountain,” the immediate challenge was adapting to the steep slopes of the plot without hindering the stunning views. Three sets of retaining walls created a multi-tiered plot with plenty of square footage and also allowed for the addition of an infinity-edge pool that appears to drop off into the desert arroyos. A sprawling basement and a four-car garage were built right into the base of the mountain, elevating the main living areas to take advantage of the panoramas. “I took advantage of natural light through orientation and skylighting and incorporated trellises for solar control. The expansive windows allow for a seamless relationship with the outside environment,” McCormick notes.
Bestowing design elements with purpose is important to McCormick’s architectural philosophy of creating harmonious and beneficial environments. He chose his building materials carefully with an eye to both function and aesthetics. Copper enriches the exterior in the form of a barrel vault spanning the length of the home and banding around the porte-cochère. “The color and texture blend well with the desert, and it reflects the sun, so there’s a definite green factor as well,” McCormick notes. Concrete and steel provide the clean lines of modern design but also offer superior rigidity and opportunities for energy efficiency.
Natural materials, coupled with a vibrant use of color, soften the industrial influences and give the home accents of regional authenticity. “The juxtaposition of the cold surfaces to the warmth of the wood beams is very smart,” says design consultant Elizabeth Teige, who helped with furnishings and decor. “It brings humanity to the space, but still keeps it masculine.”
McCormick’s boyhood love of the arts has never waned, and in fact has blossomed in his adult years. As an active member of El Paso Pro-Musica, McCormick is dedicated to promoting chamber music and other creative endeavors. To that end, his home is part art gallery and part concert hall, with plenty of room for mingling and cultured conversation. The front door opens onto an immense hallway housing one of the most extensive private art collections in the area. A Shigeru Kawai piano sits on a raised alcove in the main living area surrounded by intimate seating areas and tables. This past spring, McCormick hosted a gala featuring pianist Laurie Koval and the artwork of renowned artists Aleksander and Lyuba Titovets. Zuill Bailey, one of the premiere cellists in the world and the artistic director of El Paso Pro-Musica, is slated to play at an upcoming gathering.
In a setting that melds modern form with the natural environment and beauty with exquisite design, that is sure to be a magical evening of art and culture.
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