by Erin Augustine
Joshua Nimmo, AIA, began practicing architecture professionally in 1997 after graduating from Oklahoma State University. In 2003, he started working directly under the tutelage of Lionel Morrison, FAIA, at Morrison Seifert Murphy. During the recession, Nimmo decided to venture out on his own, starting his practice in 2009. One of the first projects NIMMO took on necessitated a 35 percent cut to the construction budget. The result, however, was a compelling, sustainable, and modern building. Nimmo says this experience influenced the practice’s design philosophy, especially as clients began to reevaluate the prevalence of “superficial” projects, which Dallas had become known for: “We were not looking to create projects that didn’t have authenticity. It wasn’t just about what the building looked like. It wasn’t just about an image. It was about creating projects that were designed through a holistic manner, which is something we have consistently incorporated into all of our projects.”
Nimmo’s approach to design moves from what he has identified as the ambiguous to the specific. By this he means that there are numerous aspects that influence where a project is going to go and what design forces will operate within the project: NIMMO works to identify how a project will be driven and then transitions those forces into a specific design, while also looking for “out of left field” inspirations and opportunities.
“We’re constantly going back and forth between those things that are very tangible and those that that are intangible. You might look at a home with a roof plane and do it in a sort of truly sculptural way, but there are other things that drive even form. It’s not just how you experience it, but that roof plane may actually control the sun in a certain way.”
In the decades ahead, NIMMO intends to approach its aspirations in a manner similar to its design philosophy — maintaining an open mind, not knowing the road ahead, but ultimately finding a place. “At the beginning of the firm, we didn’t know exactly where we were, what we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to do something innovative. Maybe we’re developing more opinions about where we want to go and what we want to do, but we still don’t know exactly where we’re going to land.”
The Hillen Residence is designed to connect the homeowners to the natural surroundings by weaving the landscape — expansive views of native Texas flora — into the plan and creating specific vignettes. The resulting layout focused on circulation patterns, efficiencies, and family privacy, and targeted moments of directed views. The building was configured to incorporate the existing trees to help shade the home, and the plan creates a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces through dynamic movement and form. The Hillen Residence also uses more common techniques, such as porous crushed stone drives, high albedo roofing, and deep overhangs
Connection to the outdoors was the client’s highest priority. Rick’s Circle, dubbed the homeowners’ “Tuxedo Home,” is woven into a dense cluster of live oaks six miles north of downtown Dallas. In order to reduce the impact of the home on the existing root systems of the trees, the foundation of the home is about half the area of the footprint, the floor being cantilevered. The solution also allows visitors to experience different perspectives of the trees as they move through the site, which slopes up from the natural grade of the home by about three feet. The result allows for the trees and the site to play a primary role in the experience, as much as the building itself.
The Fredericksburg Settlement envisions the merging of habitat with the natural Texas Hill Country landscape. The existing violent rift in the land creates a place of equilibrium and harmony for future residents. The design sets out to utilize the natural contours of the carved hillside to create a residence that blurs traditional spaces by encouraging wander and wonder. The open living space subtly changes in elevation as it ramps down to the bedroom wing, and again down further to the bath. This transition allows for a controlled experience of the landscape, as visitors move into the recessed house before emerging to panoramic views. The deep overhangs of the roof reduce the building’s impact on light pollution, allowing residents to enjoy the dark night skies.