As Ted Flato recounts to me how he and David Lake launched their San Antonio architecture firm after the death of their mentor, the famed Texas modernist O’Neil Ford, Flato’s Zoom connection abruptly cuts out. Was Ford, who passed away in 1982, haunting our interview? Perhaps, but what’s certain is that the spirit of the late trailblazer, who believed that a building should exist in harmony with its environment, has informed Lake Flato since its inception in 1984. Ford “was a great counterpoint in those days to what was going on in the architecture schools, [where] it was all about shape and history and cleverness and Sheetrock,” Flato says, laughing, as we resume our video call. 

Lake Flato, one of the preeminent sustainable-architecture outfits in the country, is known for high-profile projects including the Austin Central Library and the Pearl Brewery redevelopment as well as for residences, from ranch homes to city-dweller digs, that thoughtfully connect with their surroundings.  With project descriptions by veteran Texas design writer and former Texas Monthly staff writer and editor Helen Thompson, Lake Flato Houses: Respecting the Land (Rizzoli New York, October 19) unpacks how the pair’s ethos—that architecture ought to be firmly rooted in place, using local resources—has been a constant in their careers.

The photos showcase a stunning array of abodes in Texas and across the country, including the Verde Creek House, in Center Point, near Kerrville. A clear example of how Lake Flato embeds its structures in the landscape, the home seems to magically arise where its eponymous creek bends, its cypress walls blending with the thicket of cypress trees deep in the Hill Country.

Clarification: This story has been updated to include information about author Helen Thompson.

This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “A Sense of Place.” Subscribe today.