Monday, June 21, 2010

2 Great Architects x 1 Amazing Firm = Bercy Chin Studio

Bercy Chin Studio was founded in 2001 by Thomas Bercy and Calvin Chen  who met while in collage at the University of Texas, in Austin. The two have found Texas to be the the perfect venue for architects from far-flung places to come together and create a powerful design identity. Bercy (from Brussels) and Chen (from Taipei) have used Austin, Texas, as their home base and muse for a growing body of work that combines a sensitivity to local context with an innovative use of materials. Though rooted in a respect for the Texas Hill Country and what they call “borrowed landscapes,” their innovative residential designs and one completed retail project have spread the architects’ reputation beyond central Texas.

The two principals aren’t the only foreign-born designers at work in their design-build firm. “It’s like the U.N. around here,” says Bercy. Indeed, the six-person firm boasts a 50:50 ratio of international-to-U.S-born members. “You walk in the office and hear me on the phone in French, Calvin chatting away in Chinese, Tom in Danish, Gunter in German—it’s pretty interesting.” With all of the firm’s global contacts, they’ve begun to hear from clients in their home countries. While they are excited by these opportunities, they also hate to let go of the hands-on approach they have taken with their local jobs. “We create buildings that will last,” says Bercy. “They’re not ephemeral, so it helps to control the construction process.” Chen adds, “Because we’ve done all the contracting management as well as the design for our Texas projects, we’ve been able to experiment, and push contractors to break from the norm. We know we can’t be so closely involved with the construction on projects farther away. So, we’re working on improving our document-making abilities to retain as much control as we can.”

While the firm does both residential, commercial and cultural projects, it has also become very important to work sustainability into all of their work. The PV Systems (solar panels) are one way they are doing this and another is Green Roofing. They have developed a proprietary planted-roof system, whereas most conventional greenroof manufactuers do not supply the water-barrier membraine, which is really the most critial and costly part. The system they have created can accomodate a series of plant species, but is geared towards native flowers and grasses. The benefits of using native plant species include compatibility with native fauna, as well as minimal watering requirements.

Bercy Chen Studio is committed to collaborating with clients in identifying design solutions and planning strategies to create innovative designs based on environmentally sustainable and financially viable business models. Having experience as a design/build operation, the firm's first hand knowledge of construction & finance is crucial in ensuring successful project implementation. The firm has been a member of the City of Austin's Green Building Program and USGBC with certified 4 Star projects.

Calvin & Thomas are both active participants of the community. Calvin served on the City of Austin's Design Commission and participated on several initiatives, including the Create Austin Cultural Masterplanning project. They both serve on the board of advisors for the Austin Museum of Art.


To find out more about Bercy Chin Studio, please visit

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