• The boat dock's wall of steel tubes and stretched fabric roof lend it a feeling of lightness and transparency.

    Credit: Patrick Wong / Atelier Wong Photography

    The boat dock's wall of steel tubes and stretched fabric roof lend it a feeling of lightness and transparency.
It's not easy to sensitively place a building on a waterfront site. The moment you begin to build, you risk damaging the natural beauty that made the property desirable in the first place. That's why this ingenious boat dock in Austin, Texas, represents such an achievement. Architects Juan Miró and Miguel Rivera turned it sideways so the two boat slips face each other nose to nose instead of jutting out into Lake Austin. They further lightened the project's presence on the shoreline by cloaking it in a screen of steel and topping it with a stretched fabric canopy. “We wanted it to feel like it can start going down the river by itself,” says Miró.

Ephemeral though the dock may look, in reality it couldn't be sturdier. General contractor Rusty Signor built its steel frame atop steel piles drilled into the lake. A wall of steel tubes spaced 1½ inches apart lets in light and air, and the ipé deck atop the building gives the clients a place to sit and relax after a day of boating. A subcontractor who specializes in tensile structures installed the waterproof canopy between precisely placed steel masts. “The canopy is similar to sail fabric,” says Miró. “It's very durable, mold resistant, and stable in both directions.” The entire project took just a day and a half to build, but it will provide its owners with years of enjoyment. “I want to be in there,” said a judge enviously. He's not the only one who feels that way; Miró and Rivera are currently working on another boat dock, this time for the owner's brother.

Project Credits
Entrant/Architect: Miró Rivera Architects, Austin, Texas
Builder: Signor Enterprises, Austin
Fabric contractor: Fabric Structures, River Vale, N.J.
Project size: 1,200 square feet (includes boat storage area and terrace)
Site: 3.5 acres
Construction cost: Withheld
Photographer: Patrick Wong/Atelier Wong Photography

Resources: Fabric: Ferrari Textiles; Hardware: Hafele; Lighting fixtures: Bega; Metal decking: MBCI; Metal railings: Hayn Enterprise; Paints: Sherwin-Williams.