As the tenth-fastest growing city in the nation with a blossoming urban core, San Antonio provides a niche for architects and designers hoping to get their share of the action. That’s why Austin-based architecture firm Clayton&Little is expanding and officially setting up shop in town, bringing with them their cutting edge design concepts.
The expansion is being spearheaded by Brian Korte and Jonathan Card, both seasoned local architects who will serve as co-founding members of the Clayton&Little San Antonio location at 429 N. St. Mary’s St. The office’s structure is currently under renovation, but the firm is open for business and has already hosted clients and meetings out of their temporary basement office.
“In terms of a home base, San Antonio is a great strategic location,” said Korte. “There’s a lot of projects just where we’re sitting right here in this core area of downtown, with buildings that can have another life.”
The office is located in an aged structure facing the bustling St. Mary’s Street, with its back to the River Walk. Over the years it has served as a law office, burlesque, and even a Christian night club in the 1970s, Card said. Most recently, it housed Giles Design, a nationally-recognized local design firm.
The Clayton&Little team hopes the history within and surrounding the building will be a source of inspiration to its architects and designers. The renovated building will soon fit the firm’s 10-member staff.
Clayton&Little, founded in 2001 by long-time architects Paul Clayton and Emily Little, has completed projects all over Texas. In San Antonio, they were instrumental in the development of major projects in the Pearl, including the restoration of the present-day brewery known as Southerleigh, LARDER at Hotel Emma and the 1894 Pearl Bottling House, which was consumed in a 2003 fire, is currently being rebuilt.
The firm places an emphasis on the adaptive reuse of spaces, a practice that involves reusing a site or building for a purpose other than it was initially intended. It also is known for its work in sustainable architecture and design.
Clayton&Little has worked all over Texas, but found San Antonio the perfect choice for expansion because of its proximity to Austin and the opportunity for unique projects. For Card, joining the team seemed to make sense for both his career and the future of the firm.
“I wanted to grow, but there’s already so much cool stuff going on here right now,” he said. “I had the opportunity to join these people who are already so like minded and help them accomplish what I’m trying to accomplish, so our goals were synergistic.”
As a local architect, Card has played an integral role in San Antonio’s Main Plaza renovation, the Pearl Brewery Master Plan, and other hospitality projects including Cured and Local Coffee. Right now, he said, Clayton&Little has “a mix of projects” including a spa project at the Pearl, retail and office projects Downtown, and a panaderia coming to Houston Street.
Korte joined the local architecture scene in 1998 and has experience with both residential and hospitality work among other things. While a lot of his work brings him out to California, he’s excited to play a role in having the firm’s presence impact the San Antonio community.
“We see San Antonio as this incredible spot right now because the city is changing, the development is good,” he said. “It’s rich and starting from the core and starting to build like a real city. Being a part of that growth is, I think, really satisfying.”
Clayton&Little’s expansion comes at a key point in San Antonio’s growth, with the urban core experiencing a rebirth that shows no sign of stopping any time soon. Initiatives like the San Antonio River Improvements Project and the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project are working to breathe life into old, underused spaces, by improving their overall visual appeal and implementing bike and pedestrian paths, bringing more residents to the area.
The conservation efforts in the city make this sort of growth unique, Card said, since spaces and buildings have a chance to retain their historic value. Perpetuating that conservation means making sure architects are mindful in the way they work in relation to changing city dynamics, he added, especially since San Antonio already has a extensive stock of old buildings.
“San Antonio has a really proud history of conservation and we want to perpetuate that but we also want to add to it,” he said. “It’s taking what’s already here and highlighting it and doing our part to make it even better.”
In the midst of the city’s renewal, Clayton&Little hopes to stay true to its mission of balancing “the Texas that was with the Texas that is coming” and re-energize city spaces while maintaining the cultural and historical aspects that make them unique. Card hesitates to use the word “transform,” in regards to the firm’s work; he says their mission is preserve and enhance, with the help of the community.
“If I could pick one word that I want our work to be about, its about augmenting the city, not transforming it necessarily,” he said. “We want to join in shoulder-to-shoulder with people and make it a better place.”
As a firm, Card and Korte hope to emphasis their abilities to work not only on custom interior projects but also on master plans. Having a presence in San Antonio will be more than just project work, Card said. He hopes the firm as a whole will connect with the city on a deeper level.
“The opportunities here seem to be huge in terms of variety and opportunities to make a lasting impact on a place, on a city,” he said.
*Top image: Jonathan Card (left) and Brian Korte (right). Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.