Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago · 9 min. reading time · ~100 ·

Claire L blog
Architects I Admire Part Nine - Bercy Chen

Architects I Admire Part Nine - Bercy Chen


bercy chen studio
bare com
Bercy Chen Studio was founded in 2001 by Thomas Bercy and Calvin Chen and is based in Austin, Texas.  They have vastly different backgrounds (Thomas is from Belgium and Calvin is from Taiwan via Australia) but they share a similar design approach.  The firm has won more than 20 awards from 12 countries and Bercy Chen credit this recognition to their international influences and collaborative approach.

In 2006 Bercy Chen Studio won the "Emerging Voices" prize from the Architecture League of New York, each year the League selects 7 of the most innovative designers from Europe and the USA.  In the same year the firm was profiled in Architectural Records December 2006 "Design Vanguard" award issue and was selected as one of the top 10 emerging design firms in the world.  Despite their international acclaim both Calvin and Thomas retain close ties to their local community.  Calvin Chen serves on the City of Austins Design Commission and has taken part in various initiatives including the "Create Austin" Cultural Masterplanning project.  Both Calvin and Thomas serve on the board of advisors for the Austin Museum of Art.

Bercy Chens portfolio is almost evenly split between residential and commercial projects and  every single project is totally unique.  The firm is a member of the City of Austin’s Green Building Program and USGBC with certified 3 Star projects.

“We don’t have a preconceived notion of what a house looks like, so we take a fresh approach every time.”

Edgeland House

bercy chen studio LP

Edgeland House is on a rehabilitated brownfield site and is a modern interpretation of the Native American Pit House.  It's partially sunken (7 feet) into the ground and takes advantage of the earths mass to maintain thermal comfort year round.  It has a green roof and uses hydronic heating and cooling for maximum energy efficiency.


The house is broken into two separate pavilions, one for bedrooms and the other for living space - you need to go outside to pass from one to the other.


The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center helped to reintroduce over 40 indigenous species of wildflowers and plants to the green roof of Edgeland House and the surrounding site - thus protecting the local ecosystem.


Edgeland House raises awareness about a diminishing natural landscape and it's finite natural resources - it creates a balance between the surrounding industrial zone and the river on the other side of the site.  It's about healing the land and amending the scars of the stands industrial past.

Shore Vista Boat Dock


Shore Vista Boat Dock is on a bend in Lake Austin, Texas opposite Canyonland Nature Preserve.




Annie Residence

This house was designed and built for two families and is split into two living areas connected by a glass hallway.


The house was constructed of an exposed modular steel frame infilled with prefabricated 'thermasteel' panels (which minimised construction on site waste) and glass.


The use of the roof as an outdoor living space and the shading devices are evocative of Moorish architecture, the minimalist aspect of the interior and use of glass was inspired by Japanese pavilions.


Cascading Creek House


"Cascading Creek House was conceived less as a house and more as an outgrowth of the limestone aquifers of the Central Texas geography. "

The roof was designed to create a basin for rainwater harvesting and also has photo-voltaic and solar hot-water panels.  The water, electricity and heat collected from the roof tie into an extensive climate conditioning system that uses heat pumps and radiant loops to supply the houses heating and cooling. The homes climate system is also connected to geothermal ground loops, pools and water features which establish a system of heat exchange.  This greatly reduces the demand for electricity or natural gas.


In contrast to the low street profile of the house in relation to the street the home extends generously to the wilderness below - it was designed to embrace nature not overwhelm it.


Two long limestone walls act as spines for the wings of the house.  The positioning of the house and boundary walls preserved three mature oak trees.

Each wing of the house ends with the roof cantilevered from a column thus allowing the external walls to be fully glazed - this floods the interior spaces with daylight and provides views of the pool deck and woods beyond.



Lago Vista Lake House

The Lago Vista House is a vacation home that doubles as an artists retreat.


The building is a simple shed structure with a large cantilevered roof that covers a large patio.  The cantilever is echoed in the foundation to convey a sense of levitation.



Wingspan House




Bold Ruler House





Quihi House


This house is made up of a series of parallel rammed earth walls and has large glazed walls along water filled corridors.



Solidarity Museum - Poland


On the 14th August 1980 at the beginning of the shipyard strike the government tried to isolate Gdansk from the rest of the country by cutting phone lines and censoring mail.  Meanwhile the media went about business as usual and a blanket ban on reporting the strike was implemented.  Ultimately the strikes spread throughout Poland, the success of the movement was marked by a quiet show of unity rather than violence...


Through light and transparency, our design seeks to register this aspect of the Solidarity movement of sensing the presence of others without direct contact. 

The Solidarity Square Monument is surrounded by 21 poplar trees representing one of the points of the Gdansk Accord.

It’s our endeavor to capture both the melancholic, sad moments in addition to the moments of inspiration and exhalation. This duality, reflective of Poland at the time of the shipyard strike, is paramount to our design. The country was unified as it never had been before or since. Yet, this unity came at the expense of extreme economic crisis, lack of food, low wages and high inflation. The ESC should tell the entire story of Solidarity not simply the results of the toil.

E 11th St Multi-Use


1111 East 11th Street is a three storey mixed use project, the ground floor consists of an art gallery and boutique store, the second floor is offices and living space comprises the third floor.

The shifting form complements the Texas State Capitol and the UT Austin Tower mimics the geological exfoliation of Enchanted Rock in central Texas.


Terraces and canopies draws the occupants outdoors and the cantilevered first floor shades the entrance below from the intense Texas sun.


Projects in Development - 

Urban Forest - Stockholm Library


"The new library extension faces the challenge of needing to compliment without competing, and should, in fact, ought to heighten the iconic value of the building and urban concept around it."

The hidden side of the Asplund Library is showcased and creates a strong public tie between the building and the Odenplan.  The back corner of the library follows the Odenplans street line and resulted in a large covered plaza with tall tree like columns (solid and transluscent) framing the library. 


Monterrey Twin Towers


The Monterrey Twin Towers (Mexico) were inspired by the striated texture of the mountains that span the region.  The subtle folding of the facades give the towers a different appearance from all angles in response to  Huasteca Canyon and Horsetail Falls.  Cañón de la Huasteca vertical forms influence the buildings facade.



Two Coves Residence


Two Coves Residence is a family home on a hilltop near Emma Long Metropolitan Park in West Austin a nd has  panoramic views of the city and hills beyond.  A central circular courtyard containing a reflecting pool.  The pools waterfall creates a constant white noise which mitigates the sounds of the traffic nearby.  A cantilevered perforated metal structure shields the house against the strong Texan sun. 

"Spiritually, the large body of water brings a sense of calm and psychological coolness while visually connecting the house with the surrounding landscape. The pond also captures the constantly changing ambient light and reflects it onto the interior ceiling, animating the entire house." 


The circular courtyard is surrounded by an L-Shaped house and a series of outdoor steps lead down the slope passing under the reflecting pool to a Japanese Zen garden surrounded by a bamboo grove.   Every room in the house has views into the courtyard, city vistas and hillside.  


Malinalco Retreat

Malinalco luxury spa resort is in a valley between Nevado do Toluca and Popocatepetl, two of Mexico’s highest volcanic peaks two hours outside Mexico City.  The 45 room eco-retreat has yoga and meditation rooms, spa treatment areas and a temazcal (pre-columbian sauna).


The design was inspired by the legend of the rain god Tlaloc, the views of the mountains beyond with waterfalls as gifts from the gods and the client's reverence for precious natural resources and the Sun and Moon Lagoon in the crater of Nevado de Taoluca.  The landscaping was conceived as a floating Persian carpet of flowers inspired by the Terraces at Teotenango.  


Floating circular villas provide panoramic views of the beautiful mountain ranges nearby, guests can swim in the pool with indigenous Mallinali plants and water lilies providing privacy. The circular shape is inspired by the local temple of Jaguar, a pre-Columbian temple excavated from a mountain side, and also by the circular Kiva of the American Southwest.


“We look at primitive architecture and how people have over the centuries come up with solutions to temper the climate. This empirical data is critical and a lot of people completely ignore it. We’re interested in picking it up and modernizing and improving on it.”  

Enfield houses


Falling Leaves House




Arrowhead House




Riverbend House



What I love about Bercy Chen Studios is that each project is totally different and is inspired by the surrounding landscape.

“[Incorporating the] landscape makes houses more interesting and it has inspired our work. We both grew up in dense cities – Burssels and TaiPei—so it’s a real treat to get inspiration from nature.” 

Call Claire +27 82 399 0180 / +27 11 025 4458, Whatsapp - +27 66 232 3776 

I love Architecture. I think it's vital to talk about all aspects of Architecture - whether it be planning, construction, design or green building. I have written 3 E-Books & over 110 articles. Please feel free to let me know if you have any queries regarding architecture, planning & construction & I will assist you.

I am originally from the UK and moved to South Africa in 1999.  I started Blue Designs in 2004 after working as a driver for Avalon Construction on a luxury home in the Featherbrook Estate.  In my spare time I am an artist and writer (The Naked Architect  & ).

Other Articles I have written include :-

Building Green?  Here are some tips.

Common Mistakes People make when Designing a House

The Advantages of Sustainable Building

Considering Buying or Renovating a Heritage Home?  Pros and Cons

Renovation vs New Construction - which is Greener and Better for the Environment?

Bizarre Buildings Part Two - Space Age Fantasy

Weird and Wonderful Buildings Part Three - Three Buildings that make Music

Please follow me on :- /

#Architecture  #Architect  #Clairecardwell  #Clairelcardwell  #architecture #architect #Design #thenakedarchitect #nakedarchitect #southafrica #bercychen #thomasbercy #calvinchen #austin #texas

Sources :-

Granville Barrows G

Granville Barrows

1 year ago #8


Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #7

Thanks for the share Ali \ud83d\udc1d Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #6

I am also looking forward to seeing pics of Bercy Chens finished work Jerry Fletcher - the Falling Leaves and Arrowhead Houses are going to be amazing too.

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #5

Jerry Fletcher - the Malinalco Spa Retreat that is in development in Mexico pays homage to Inca tradition and architecture - I am looking forward to seeing pictures/videos of it once it is completed.

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #4

Thank you for the share !

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #3

Not to mention the draconian Energy Efficiency rules they have in Oz (and here in SA too) - the bill for low e double glazed glass would be horrendous. Guess they aren't too bothered about that in Texas... Maybe they have a couple of goats for the roof Ken Boddie - don't think anyone would want to actually get up there with a lawn mower!

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #2

Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic - thought you'd like this one...

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #1

Thank you Ali \ud83d\udc1d Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee for the kind words. I've long admired Bercy Chens work and a buzz on them was overdue. Not only are their designs amazing and take their inspiration from nature, they also make preserving and enhancing the environment a priority.

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