McKinney York 40 Years of architecture that engages, inspires and belongs
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Celebrating 40 Years of Design!

In celebration of our 40th anniversary, we take a closer look at each word of our mission statement that influences our approach to practice. We create spaces that belong to people through mindful placemaking, identity, and connection.

headshot of Brian Carlson

“As architects we are tasked with meeting the needs of our clients, but we also have a calling to respond to the wider community. We are continually in a posture of listening and learning to create a sense of belonging for those who experience our work, and have found that a project receives its vitality through the contributions of everyone involved – the clients, the users, the community, and members of the design team.”

– Brian Carlson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal


The Montopolis Recreation and Community Center is the centerpiece of the community serving as a central gathering and activity space, and a gateway to the Montopolis neighborhood. Through its materiality and reserved integration into the site, the design reflects the relaxed, unpretentious attitude the neighborhood sought, while providing connectivity and identity through communal spaces such as the gym, multipurpose rooms, and boxing center.

upstairs lobby with view of railings in foreground, building's front windows to the left, and exercise room with boxing punching bags to the right

Montopolis Recreation and Community Center View Project


In celebration of our 40th anniversary, we take a closer look at each word of our mission statement that influences our approach to practice. We create places that inspire people to do and be better through optimistic, thoughtful architecture.

headshot of Al York

“Most of our lives are spent within and around a built environment that shapes our lives and colors our thoughts and feelings. It seems to me that architects have an obligation to elevate that experience. We endeavor to create architecture that lifts and transforms lives by inspiring big ideas and bold actions, or quiet contemplation and simple wonder.”

– Al York, FAIA, RID, Principal


The McGarrah Jessee, an iconic building in downtown Austin exemplifying mid-century architecture, is home to the award-winning advertising and brand development agency. The renovation breathes new life to the building while delicately balancing historic preservation with a level of creative innovation that pairs with its occupant.

image of McGarrah Jessee building looking into red tunnel entrance opening to stairs and escalators towards geometric mural on back wall

McGarrah Jessee Building View Project


In celebration of our 40th anniversary, we take a closer look at each word of our mission statement that influences our approach to practice. We create places that engage people by inviting thought, stirring emotions, and awakening senses.

headshot of Will Wood

“One of our responsibilities as designers of the built environment is to engage our clients and the people that may experience our work. At the most ambitious level, we do that by developing concepts in each of our projects. Through careful planning, we hope our design decisions feel as though they are self-evident, ultimately creating opportunities for that engagement to occur.”

– Will Wood, AIA, RID, Principal


The Rox, Duke, and Danay Covert Admissions Welcome Center is the “front door” for prospective students at the University of Texas at Austin, designed to entertain, educate, and engage visitors while sharing the energy, sprit, and possibilities of the university.

image of Welcome Center at the University of Texas at Austin, wood slat panel wall with longhorn logo detail

Admissions Welcome Center View Project


Over the last four decades, we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate on hundreds of projects, each rooted in our desire to connect people to each other and the world round them by creating architecture that engages, inspires, and belongs.

headshot of Heather McKinney

“We believe our work is better when all voices are heard, and we are deeply committed to improving the built environment through inclusive and sustainable design. As we look ahead to the next decades and our continued growth in central Texas, we remain committed to our mission to create architecture that resonates across the full breadth of people’s humanity – their minds, their hearts, and their senses.”

– Heather McKinney, FAIA, RID, Founder


residence exterior at dusk with lighted interior looking through glass windows into foyer with winding stair

Winter Park Residence View Project

You can explore the studio to gain insight into our design philosophy and approach, or see our ideas come to life by viewing our work.

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Unlocking the Housing Development Potential in Austin

Small Site Apartments

In recent decades, the growth of residential units within Austin has sharply declined, as documented in Root Policy Research’s 2020 Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis. This comes as little surprise; as we grow, the city has less easily developable land. As a result, almost all development in Austin is now redevelopment. While large developers with institutional investors can acquire large tracts for development, small, formerly single-family lots comprise much of central Austin. In the city’s core, lawyers, accountants, architects, and other professionals have long ago converted these properties to commercial uses. As downtown Austin has evolved from a 9-to-5 commuter-office destination into a bustling mix of housing, office, retail, cultural, and nightlife uses, these small lots offer an opportunity for not-so-large developers to contribute to its vibrancy.

Small-lot apartment developments such as Capitol Quarters and Ashram offer private and public benefits:

  • They are sustainable; they take advantage of the existing water, sewer, roadway, and public transit infrastructure already serving the central city.
  • They foster urban vibrancy and neighborhood safety.
  • The evening, early morning, and weekend activity helps local businesses to thrive.
  • These developments provide opportunities to diversify Austin’s housing stock ownership.

The city hopes to make even more sites available for small-lot apartments. The commitment of the Council to new affordable housing does not appear to have wavered, even though CodeNext stalled. Importantly, recent changes to Austin’s building code have made small-lot apartments even more attractive investments.

Model building codes have for years allowed apartment buildings with four or fewer units on a level to be served by a single stair up to the third floor, provided the units were small enough that the travel distance from the most remote part of any apartment to the exit was not more than 125 feet. However, before it adopted the 2021 version of the International Building Code, Austin had always amended the code to require a second stair from all three-story apartment buildings, regardless of the travel distance.

This amendment particularly burdened small sites. At Ashram, a recent McKinney York project, a 4,400 SF lot was rezoned from residential to DMU (Downtown Mixed Use). After accounting for compatibility and building code setback requirements, open space, and parking, the rezoned site could accommodate a building of approximately 7,400 SF on three levels. The footprint of a second stair would likely take around 500 SF out of the building, which as of 2023, could amount to a reduction of $20,000 (or more) in annual rent in central Austin. This diminished earning capacity could be the determining factor in the viability of a site for a small-site apartment redevelopment, perpetuating the city’s residential shortfall.

There is no singular fix to the shortage of housing in Austin. However, unlocking the development potential of our many small sites offers one way to contribute to the solution.


If you or your organization would like more information on this topic, please email us.