David Heymann

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Political People

David Heymann is an architect who was commissioned by President George W. Bush to design a custom, environmentally friendly house for the Bush ranch near Crawford, Texas.

He received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from The Cooper Union in 1984. After receiving his B.Arch., he worked for Tod Williams and Associates, and I.M. Pei and Partners. He received his Masters of Architecture Degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University in 1988. Prior to teaching at The University of Texas, Heymann taught at Iowa State University. Heymann is currently professor and associate dean of architecture at the University of Texas at Austin.

Approach to architecture

The Audubon Society selected Heymann to design their new interpretive visitor centre. Audubon Magazine writer Patricia Sharpe calls him a "well known green architect".

According to Heymann, he tries to design buildings that fit in with their surroundings. He says that sustainability is important to him on a personal level. Heymann has said:

"Most of my clients are building in nonurban areas, seeking to establish grounded relationships with their sites. They are not initially worried about conservation. ... More and more, I can push my clients further--to use groundwater cooling for example--because they are cognizant that an emotional benefit also accrues to the building...My work is possible only because people are populating the countryside at alarming rates, seeking to find a world they think is lost. Architects have argued against this and other recent trends--the increasingly large house, for example--to no avail."

General honours

In 2000, Heymann was selected by The Architectural League of New York for inclusion in its Emerging Voices series.

He is the recipient of the 2002 award for Award for Outstanding Educational Contributions from the Texas Society of Architects, and he was selected as a visiting scholar by the American Academy in Rome for 2002-2003.

He is the recipient of the 17th annual Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship (FCTF). The fellowship comes with a $12,000 cash honorarium which is the University's largest for undergraduate teaching excellence. The Fellowship is funded by earnings from the nearly $500,000 FCTF endowment. Professor Heymann is the first person from the School of Architecture to receive the award. The Friar's award is one of 8 teaching awards he has received while at the University of Texas. He has also been elected to the University’s Academy of Distinguished Teaching Professors.

Commissions and design awards

Heymann and fellow architects Michael Underhill and Laura Miller won a design citation from Progressive Architecture magazine in 1994 for their design of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames, Iowa. Since the building was built, the trio has also received an honour award from the American Institute of Architects, the professional organization for architects in the United States. The design was also the winner of a Progressive Architecture Design Award Citation.

The Western White House

Bush and Putin by a limestone fireplace at the Western White House
Bush and Putin by a limestone fireplace at the Western White House

Heymann was selected by George W. Bush and Laura Bush to design a 10,000 ft² (930 m²) honey-colored native limestone environmentally-friendly single-level home on the Prairie Chapel Ranch, which serves as their home away from the White House. The property has been referred to as the Western White House and as the Texas White House.

According to Heymann, the four-bedroom home was planned so that "every room has a relationship with something in the landscape that's different from the room next door. Each of the rooms feels like a slightly different place." In order to help the house blend in with its surroundings, Heymann selected limestone quarried very near the location of the house. The pieces used are left-over pieces from other cuttings, making an environmental statement about conserving resources. "They cut the top and bottom of it off because nobody really wants it," Heymann says. "So we bought all this throwaway stone. It's fabulous. It's got great colour and it is relatively inexpensive."

Both the main house and the guest house use geothermal energy for their heating and cooling and require 25% less energy usage than a conventional heating and cooling system. The main residence, including the kitchen, dining room, and living room/family room use a two-speed, 6-ton water-source heat pump designed to handle up to 75 guests. The president’s office, master bedroom, and bathroom use a 3-ton water-source heat pump. The guest house uses a separate 2.5-ton unit. These heat pumps circulate water through pipes buried 300 feet (100 m) deep in the ground. Underground, the water remains a constant 67 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that pure water can be used without the use of antifreeze.

The passive solar house is positioned to absorb winter sunlight, warming the interior walkways and walls of the residence. A 40,000 US gallon (151 m³) underground cistern collects rainwater gathered from roof urns; wastewater from sinks, toilets, and showers cascades into underground purifying tanks and is also funneled into the cistern. The water from the cistern is then used to irrigate the landscaping around the four-bedroom home.

"One thing we wanted was to make sure the house fit into the landscape," Laura Bush says. "I think it does, with the low house and the native limestone that looks very natural. It also takes advantage of the landscape with all the views." The view played an important role in situating and designing the house, as did the breezes and the direction of the sun. During the design process, Heymann would outline potential layouts in the ground and the Bushes would stand there visualizing what the house would look like in each setting.

The final design takes maximum advantage of the breeze by being long and narrow - most of the house is only one room wide. The house is surrounded by a porch, which shades the house from direct sun in the summer and provides a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors. Most traffic between rooms goes via the porch, although there are some interior doors. There are no stairs or thresholds, Laura Bush points out. "We wanted our older parents to feel comfortable here," she says. "We also want to grow old here ourselves." Heymann says, "The house doesn't hold you in. Where the porch ends there is grass. There is no step-up at all."

President Bush has said Heymann "did a fabulous job" with the house.


Heymann lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Sandra Fiedorek, and their two children: Walrus, and Hen.

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