Category: Commercial
Location: Austin, TX
Size: 5390 sq. ft.
Masonry Used: 100% limestone on all exterior walls. 70% limestone on all interior walls
Submitted by: Katheryn Lott Architects

Project Description

The Kappa Sigma fraternity house in Austin, TX, ties in the unique aspects of the brotherhood's history with a local charm.

Rich in history while still anchored in its modern home at the University of Texas in Austin, the Kappa Sigma fraternity lodge is built of local stone that gives the house a rustic feel. Over the 11-month period of construction, the design goal was to take the 5,390 square feet of space and create a lodge-inspired dining/study hall while keeping the fraternity's unique history in mind.

The brotherhood of Kappa Sigma began in 15th Century Italy and was founded as a society for mutual protection against the violence and robberies being perpetrated on students by the henchmen of a corrupt city governor. The design model for the lodge is deeply rooted in the fraternity's history and culture.

The stonework -- both inside and out -- including the stately arches, directly reflects the Old World European craftsmanship and style of 15th Century Italy. The entire exterior of the Tau chapter's lodge is made of a native cream-colored limestone from the surrounding Austin area. All of the interior walls are the same native stone as the exterior, split on all sides with random heights and lengths. Sizes include a combination of 25% of 4-inch pieces, 30% of 6-inch pieces, 25% of 8-inch pieces and 20% of 10-inch pieces. A major concern was making sure that all of the materials used were to be durable, and able to withstand constant wear and tear by fraternity members.

The structural stonework was crafted by using a Tuscan-inspired technique of precisely matching the mortar color to the stone and then hand rubbing it into the surface to give it a clean texture and high-quality finish. For contrast, the fireplace and chimney were built of Tuscany Hickory stone, split on all sides and of random heights and lengths and dry-stacked. Alternatively, the concrete floor was stained and sealed with a gloss finish, making the Kappa Sigma Crest the focal point of the Great Room.

Though there weren't any other types of stone considered, the selection process was still very in depth. Prior to construction of the stone walls, the contractor built three sample boards on site so that Lott and the building committee representatives could choose the right mortar color and technique.

The reaction to the lodge has been very well received as the pledge classes have increased in size for the last two years since its opening. Membership has increased from 66 members in 2009 to 184 members in 2012.

The Lodge was completed and dedicated in November 2010 and is said to "embody the strength, character and spirit of the Kappa Sigma Renaissance predecessors of Bologna."

Project Participants

Architect / Designer's Name: Katheryn Lott
Company: Katheryn Lott Architects
Phone: (512) 263-8778

Structural Engineer' s Name: Ken Tan
Company: Tan Associates, Inc.
Phone: (713) 270-5070

General Contractor's Name: Ed Lowenberg
Company: Solis Constructors, Inc.
Phone: (512) 450-0280

Masonry Contractor's Name: Aaron Thomison
Company: Aarib Thomison Masonry, Inc.
Phone: (512) 748-4886