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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What Architecture Brings to Art

Living History and Culture

Art and architecture hold a unique position as tangible elements of culture, pieces of living history carrying the creative DNA of their time. They share a synergistic relationship; it’s the stained glass in Saint Chapelle that makes the building ethereal, and the embrasure of the Rothko Chapel that releases the power of the paintings. As a firm, we’ve had the opportunity to explore this powerful relationship through our work, finding ways to shape space to work in concert with the art it houses:

  • Architecture can “announce” the art through its entry sequence, preparing the visitor for their experience of the art within the experience of the building.
  • It acts as a foil and a complement to the art by providing the appropriate volume, color palette and degree of openness or intimacy. It controls natural and artificial light within a space to best display the art. It creates opportunities for edited, grouped collections which, when gathered together, are stronger than when dispersed across disparate spaces.
  • It can frame art through placement – on axis, as a surprise, in context with nature or through custom display components.
  • Lastly, the architecture can, in rare circumstances, riff on the art itself through material selection or through the embedding of commissioned art.

In making living spaces which do double duty as gallery space, we are inextricably linking the perception of the space and the art. In these projects, the pieces displayed are part of highly personal collections which provide enjoyment for the people who live with them. We have the opportunity to make spaces which heighten that enjoyment by creating context, choreography, and moments of surprise and delight.

In the Robbs Run house, designed for an artist/curator and her husband, a floating partition opposite the front door functions as both a welcoming art wall defining the foyer and a privacy screen for the staircase. Commissioned pieces – a starlit chandelier in the dining room and a colorful glass backsplash in the kitchen – were also embedded in the house.

A collection of School of Paris paintings is made more striking by the quiet context of the Ridge Oak Residence. The vibrance of the art is enhanced by the neutral colors of the space, the balanced natural light, and the intuitive circulation patterns.  The prominent displays include the hallways, sized and aligned to be galleries, and even the kitchen, providing many focal points and viewing perspectives.

The Shavano Park house was designed for a glass art collector; we saw the building itself as an opportunity to play with the wonderful characteristics of glass, imparting translucence, transparency, and layered space and color. The whole house speaks to the owner’s love of glass as a medium, starting with the commissioned glass front door handle, which is the “handshake” of the house. Inside, custom cabinetry defines galleries and rooms while framing the glass art in open or back-walled vignettes. Art is aligned to be seen on axis as well as across a courtyard, through several layers of glass walls.

At the University of Texas at Austin, the Christian-Green Gallery shows how subtle interventions into a structure can allow a collection to surprise. A glass enclosure makes the space on the second floor of Jester Center approachable and accessible, inviting visitors to discover the artistic culture of Africa and its Diaspora. The entry portal, welcome desk, and other elements were created from African hardwoods as a nod to the cultural mission of the gallery. Backlit fabric scrims provide variable illumination and create the stunning effect of ceilings which disappear. By changing the perceived volume of the space, the lighting gives a sense of drama to a broader range of art. As a whole, the space is deferential, adapting to the art rather than competing with it.


In our corporate work, we had the unique opportunity to repurpose a defunct mid-century Austin bank building into corporate offices for the brand development agency McGarrah Jessee. Original to the building’s formal lobby was a Seymour Fogel mural, once the centerpiece of the main banking floor.  Following a painstaking restoration to reverse years of exposure to cigarette smoke, we sought to further link the space to the experience of the art.

The building’s original escalators – the first in Austin – were refurbished, imbuing the arrival sequence with its old magic as the mural once again drifts into view. At the far end of the lobby, a site-specific mobile hangs as an artistic counterpoint created to balance the space. Walls around the mezzanine level were removed, opening the upper floor to views of the art from new vantage points. Finishes are largely subdued, but a few colors were lifted from the mural and applied sparingly throughout the building, strengthening the connection between the architecture and the art while keeping the focus squarely on the painting.

Collectively, these moves position the mural as the most memorable and compelling part of the space. The building fosters a relationship between its occupants and its art, and years after moving in, members of the McGarrah Jessee team continue to see the piece anew.

Through our own experience as practicing architects, we have seen how thoughtful architecture can enhance the daily experience of art.

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