Three award-winning small firm architects in San Antonio will share their stories of small firm practice.


John Grable, FAIA

John Grable's architecture celebrates life. By connecting to history and expressing a deep love of craft and material, his work articulates purity and simplicity, and exalts the relationship between man and nature.

John's work is distinguished by a commitment to architecture's expression of the human experience. Each project is infused with the fundamental themes that consistently guide his work.

A passion for the stories of people's lives and the role of buildings in them drives John's design. By building on existing traditions and historic vernacular, his work not only contributes to the continuum of the human experience, but also keeps the history of a place alive and evolving.

John's keen understanding of community as a living and changing organism has led him to focus on projects that enhance the communal experience and expand the role of architecture in public life.

Coming full circle and connecting physically to what came before, John feels an obligation to re-use and recycle materials. His work is enlivened by a creative blend of old materials often playfully adapted to new applications. By embracing time-tested building techniques that complement nature and taking care to rehabilitate materials whenever possible, his work is a joyous convergence of past and present.

John Grable is also an inspiring teacher and mentor, generous colleague and community leader. He is co-founder of and former teacher at the Lake|Flato Graduate Design Studio at the University of Texas San Antonio and has lectured and served on design juries throughout the country. Inspiring the next generation of architects is integral to his own work.

Craig MacMahon, AIA

After twenty years working for large firms across the Country designing large scale commercial projects, Craig found himself leaning toward the artistry and hands-on experience of owning a small firm focused on the creative aspect of design and construction. He enjoys the process of creating and crafting an environment where his clients grow, laugh, dream, learn and live. His team closely collaborates on each project and this spirit of collaboration extends to their clients, local artisans, craftspeople, subcontractors and others working on the house. They bring everyone together early in the design process and value all input.

Where possible, the landscape becomes our primary collaborator. They visit sites frequently during design to get a feel for the best building location..

All of their projects allow clients to enjoy year-round outdoor living and working environments. Craig's firm generates private courtyards by framing the yard with the house, garage, and other structures. Their Commercial endeavors engage the same process always searching for a unique and creative response to the need.

Bringing exterior materials indoors—stone, wood and steel—and filling rooms with daylight are just two ways the firm does this in each project. They also value the art of traditional building methods by mixing them with innovative techniques, applications and technology.

The mission at Craig McMahon Architects is to think holistically about the project from the beginning of design through to the last detail. They improve their clients' quality of life by delivering artfully crafted projects and unique living environments. They are passionate about their work and enjoy developing ideas into livable reality.

Tobin Smith, AIA

Tobin believes architecture is the ultimate act of commitment to a place, both as a response to and embodiment of a unique set of conditions.  He composes heightened and memorable sensory experiences through the organization of space and deployment of materials.  The combination of climate, culture and context informs his firm's work from the initial broad brush planning to the resolution of the tiniest details, culminating in a congruous solution.  Each project begins with their client’s objectives and explores functionality, efficiency, and pragmatism in addition to poetic notions.  Clarity in the final design is achieved through a process of refining and honing until all that is left is absolute and eloquent.  Completed structures represent the culmination of many desires; above all, they strive to collaborate with their clients to create places of truth, meaning and inspiration.

Tobin Smith is the Principal of Tobin Smith Architect, an award-winning practice founded in 2007. His firm’s portfolio is broad encompassing rural and urban as well as residential and commercial endeavors. Responsive to climate, culture and context, TSA seeks substantive design solutions through rigorous study of place. Their projects have been featured in local, state and national publications and received recognition for design excellence.

An active member of the design community, Tobin currently serves as Co-Chair of the American Institute of Architects San Antonio Chapter’s Homes Tour, Co-Chair of the Chapter’s Custom Residential Architects Network group, was a past Chair of the Chapter’s Lecture Series, served on the Chapter’s Executive Committee as well as on the Texas Society of Architects Honor Awards Committee.  He recently completed his tenure on the Advisory Council of Villa Finale, the only National Trust Historic Site in Texas.