“This was his dream project. There was a very distinct mindset at the beginning which evolved from Joe's appreciation for design and a penchant for what I can only describe as being a frustrated architect,” Mardi said.
“And so buying some land and building a house was just about the only common thread to what, I assume, most people experience,” she added.
“This was the best therapy for Joe. He kept a positive attitude. He checked on the progress at the house every day, reviewing plans and talking with all the contractors. I'm so happy he was able to focus on this. But once he passed I didn't know what I was going to do with the house. Either I followed my heart to finish it or my head and sell it,” Mardi said.
She went ahead and finished the interior to its current point. One of the most striking features is the dark chocolate and caramel color hardwood black walnut floor throughout the dwelling. It also features high ceilings, large open areas, straight and diagonal lines and breathtaking views of the exterior.
“I made the trip to meet them (the Ferens) and we seemed to get along very well at our first meeting. We started planning the home. Normally what happens is I ask my clients for a general idea of what they are looking for and they expressed a house that was open and one that is not a typical house that has an historical reference, like a Georgian or American Prairie I have a series of houses I have done that are more compact and more urban and we do houses that are more related to the site,” Jimenez said.
Such a home also needs a name. Mardi Ferens said “Joe's circumstances preempted his participation in declaring a name.
“So I decided on 'Whitetail Crossing' without any assist, with the hope that Joe would have approved, and Carlos will feel it worthy. It is, in my opinion, entirely appropriate,” she said.
Jimenez visited the forested property several times, studying it and determining how to lay out the house.
“This particular site has a promontory or cliff. I tried to preserve as many of the trees as we could and find a site where the house would be anchored or floating over the site. It took a long time but it was a process of collaboration. We arrived at a solution that met their (the Ferens) needs. It is a very open house in the floor plan as is the landscape,” Jimenez said.
“The house is highly customized with items they requested and we tried to accommodate them in the best possible way,” Jimenez said.
“Most architects have a language they speak with and mine seems to be with this type of house. The house the Ferens have is a freer house that meanders through the landscape. We oriented the wings toward a certain angle so we might create a courtyard. It's designed like a watch. The house has three middles or arms: one marks the hour, one the minutes and one the seconds. It's like a pivot point, a center which is the entrance and then you have one wing right, one left and the guest room and garage father south.
“You get this beautiful view when you enter the house. I looked at the windows as an opportunity to celebrate the view. I think the house is full of moments like that,” Jimenez said.
“I always say to my clients that to finish the house is not the end but just the beginning of the architecture to show all the things they want to share. That is very important to me. I am happy to help (clients) in any way I can.”
Mardi said she hopes someone will buy the property and continue working with Jimenez on its completion. She called Jimenez's demeanor as “quietly forceful.”
Between them, they compromised on some features, making the overall project a true partnership to reach a common objective.
“For example, every window has a purpose in its positioning,” she said. Some of the windows are set to appear as pictures showing the tree-filled landscape. “There was a vertical railing versus a horizontal one he (Carlos) thought would look best on the outside decks because it complemented the trees,” Mardi said.
Heated and cooled through a geothermal system, the house, mounted on massive pylons, is set into bedrock. Wayne Long of Uniontown is the general contractor and Joe Rebar of Somerset was the stone mason who placed the locally quarried stone in a horizontal pattern, mixing the varied hues of tan, brown and gray.
Jiménez teaches both undergraduate and graduate studios and a seminar on the ethical and sensual dimension of materials. He began his teaching career at Rice University in Houston, Texas, as a visiting critic in 1987 and as full time faculty in 1997.
Jiménez was born in San Jose, Costa Rica in 1959 and moved to the United States in 1974. He graduated with honors from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1981, receiving best thesis and best portfolio awards. He established his own office, Carlos Jiménez Studio, in Houston in l983.
He has taught at numerous universities.
Jiménez has won several awards for excellence in design and for his teaching, most notably American Institute of Architecture (AIA) Houston Educator of the Year 2009, Tecnologico de Monterrey-Queretaro Academic Leader 2009 and 2010, AIA Houston Honor Award (2007, 2008), Charles Duncan Award Rice University (2006), Chicago Athenaeum Architecture Award (2004), AIA Indianapolis Honor Awards (2003), Architecture (2002), Architectural Record Record Houses (1990, 1994, 1996, 2004), Progressive Architecture Young Architects (1987), The Architectural League of New York Young Architects (1988) and Emerging Voices (1994), and Forty under Forty (1995). The work of Carlos Jiménez Studio has been exhibited nationally and internationally at many museums and galleries.
His principal built works include the Houston Fine Art Press, the Central Administration/Junior School Building for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Spencer Studio Art Building at Williams College Massachusetts, the Cummins Engine Child Development Center in Columbus, Indiana, the Irwin Mortgage Corporate Headquarters in Indianapolis, the Library Service Center and Data Center for Rice University, the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Philadelphia, the Evry Housing Tower in Evry, France and the Beniopa Civic Center in Gandia, Spain.