Think Space: Dick Clark
After 35 years in the biz, Clark still has a big crush on his work
by Nicole Beckley
Photographs by Hayden Spears
DICK CLARK is most at home sitting at his studio’s central table. He’s not cloistered behind closed doors: his primary workspace is at the heart of the office that bears his name.
“My life’s pretty much an open book,” Clark says, “I live and breathe architecture, and my friends, travel.” He looks around the office, to people working steadily on projects beneath the colorful papier-mâché fish that hang from the ceiling, and whispers, “I love these people.”
Dressed casually in a black golf shirt — golf is his sport of choice these days — and long tan shorts, Clark’s preferred workspace puts him in the center of the 25-person office. And being at the center of the action is often Clark’s favorite place to be.
After studying architecture at the University of Texas at Austin in the late 1960s and attending graduate school at Harvard, Clark launched his architecture practice in Austin in 1979. In the early 1990s he moved his offices downtown, and put his modernist designs to work on the bars and restaurants that would become stalwarts of the warehouse district — Hangar Lounge, Rain on 4th, Key Bar, Lonesome Dove and a host of other spaces that have evolved with the neighborhood. “I do really like the energy of what’s going on down here and feel like I’ve been involved in it from the beginning,” Clark says.
Being at the center of the scene continues to fuel Clark’s vitality, and his office has served as a launching pad for other notable Austin architects — Michael Hsu, Jay Corder, Jamie Chioco — over its three-plus decades. “Architects are lucky because we love what we do, we change things, once we’ve done a project it’s there forever,” Clark says.
Clark’s love for the basic building blocks of architecture — sketching, drawing, designing — is a constant, and he balks at the idea of feeling uncreative. “I really don’t wake up and feel like, ‘this is a bad day.’ It ain’t going to happen,” Clark says.
Down the hall from the central drawing table Clark has a formal office, outfitted with modern décor and art collected from his travels in India with the Miracle Foundation, a nonprofit that restructures orphanages, and Africa with Turk Pipkin’s Nobelity Project. While Clark has a desk here, he may more often find himself sketching in other venues. Before it closed in 2005, Mezzaluna, the first restaurant Clark designed, was his go-to spot for working out ideas. “There have been more designs done at the old Mezzaluna bar than I have ever done in this space,” Clark says of his office.
His penchant for dining out feeds his social life and stands as a form of in-the-field research. “Every time I go into a restaurant I’m watching, I’m seeing what’s happening good, what’s happening bad … how the kitchen’s laid out. [If I] go to a new restaurant, especially in another town, I ask the guy, ‘Mind if I look in the kitchen?’” Clark says.
A self-proclaimed urbanist, Clark’s desire to be close to the action might mean trying a new dining hot-spot, or riding his Vespa downtown (“Zip, zip, zip, park it right in front.”), all the while always thinking about design ideas. “You just don’t turn that on and off,” Clark says, “At least I don’t.”
Read more from the Architecture Issue | October 2016