Prinz's Oak Lawn Heights Home
First Unitarian Dallas
Michael Friebele
Contributed by:
Michael Friebele
Assoc. AIA

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AIA Dallas Design Awards – Showcasing the Evolution of Architecture and Design in Dallas

As we approach this year’s Design Awards ceremony on Wednesday, October 8th, we take a look back at the history of the Awards program leading up to the reveal of this year’s jury.


In the beginning there was one lone juror, Joseph Hudnut. Inviting the former Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Architecture was an appropriate move given Dallas’ position in design at the dawn of the mid-century movement. Hudnut’s efforts to bring Bauhaus members Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer into the academic fold is still highly regarded as a revolutionary move in the academic realm and would evolve the Harvard Graduate School into one of America’s leading institutions on the modern design initiative.

The first installment of the Design Awards program clearly reflects Hudnut’s tendencies in his selection of the First Unitarian Church along Preston Road. Designed by the Dallas architecture firm of Tatum and Quade, the international style runs throughout the composition. As the landscape has matured, the hard edge of the architecture positions itself as a backdrop to the reflections and light cast through the layers of the encompassing tree canopy. The project was rededicated on September 10th, 2011 after an extensive renovation and addition designed by Dallas firm Architexas, whose College Park Pavilion collaboration with Norwegian architecture firm Snohetta was recognized with a 2013 Design Award. Other winners would include George Dahl for his work on the American Red Cross Building, as well as the residence of Dallas architect Harold Prinz.

Christopher Wynn provided this commentary in 2009 to the Dallas Morning News on Prinz’s Oak Lawn Heights home being saved from an impending demolition:

“John and Amy Austin, thirtysomethings who live in nearby Perry Heights, stumbled upon the house on a drive. They were back the next day with John’s father, South African architect Rodney Austin. With other potential buyers hinting at a tear-down, the Austin clan joined forces to purchase the home. “We all felt an immediate emotional connection to the house and its history,” says Amy. Now, restoring it is a family affair, and they plan to seek landmark designation.

It is a fitting next phase for a home that has persevered for more than 60 years. Prinz’s modern design with its wide planes of glass, steel beam supports and sloping, uneven lot was initially rejected as “non-conventional” by the Federal Housing Administration, but went on to earn top design honors in 1950 from the American Institute of Architects Dallas and a feature inBetter Homes & Gardens.

Prinz’s widow, Jeanette, is confident the house has gone to the right family. (For one, the Austins have sworn to preserve her precious redwood-clad walls.) “We had more than 50 years of good living in that house,” she reflects. “It’s time to share it with someone else.”

For more information on the AIA Dallas Design Awards and to re-visit the winners and entries from last year, please visit us online at

For more information on years past, pick up a copy of Transformations, The Architects, Buildings, and Events that shaped Dallas Architecture, released in 2008 by AIA Dallas.