Architect Andrew Meckfessel’s favorite thing about the AIA Tour of Homes, which returns in-person this weekend, is chatting about design with all the visitors. “It’s exciting to talk about architecture to non-architects,” he says.
The annual tour showcases the best of Dallas architecture as chosen by the architects themselves. Unlike other Dallas home tours, AIA’s event is an eclectic collection of what the city’s architects can do, says Meckfessel, this year’s co-chair. “It fits all the molds,” instead of being pigeon-holed into a specific neighborhood’s style.
It’s popular, too. Meckfessel says they typically have 1,000-plus visitors across the weekend. However, numbers dwindled in the pandemic. Given the rapidly changing state of the pandemic, homeowners and architects were hesitant to show their houses to the public. The tour went virtual in 2020 and hybrid in 2021. But people still like seeing a place physically, he says, and now “we’ve seen definitely a resurgence of people willing to open their homes.” Meckfessel says they’re expecting more than 2,000 visitors this year.
This year’s tour is back fully in-person November 5–6. We chatted with Meckfessel about what folks should know about this year’s event and how it all works.
How many houses are on the tour?
Every year, the tour features a seven- or eight-home “collection of residential architecture designed by architects that showcases what architects can do for potential homeowners,” Meckfessel says. Those architects choose a wide array of projects, including mansions, smaller single-family homes, and even multi-family properties. This year, there are eight homes spread across Dallas, from Casa Linda to Bluffview, and the suburbs.
While technically the AIA Tour of Homes covers all of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Meckfessel says they’ve focused on the city of Dallas in years past. After all, Fort Worth has its own AIA tour. But in recent years, he says the organization has been trying to highlight homes that are a bit further out. In 2021, attendees could tour a property in Tyler virtually. This year, two of the homes are located in Southlake and Colleyville. Meckfessel likes this trend. It showcases the fact that “we don’t have to be in Dallas to hire a Dallas architect or have a cool looking house,” he says. You can spread out on a larger plot of land in the suburbs and still have something architecturally interesting.
So how are the houses chosen?
Each year, the Tour of Homes committee reaches out to local architects, while also putting out a call to their AIA network for house submissions. Meckfessel says a few criteria are non-negotiable: The house must be designed by a local AIA architect who’s licensed in Texas. Picking from all the submissions can be hard (“you’re just overwhelmed with such good design,” Meckfessel says). But once they have a list of houses, the committee will narrow it down, then go on site visits.
This a fun part of the process, Meckfessel says. “The architect gives us a tour of the home and gives their case as to why this home should be on the tour.” The committee talks with the architect and homeowner about how the home was built and why they made certain design decisions—why they chose blue cabinets instead of white, for example. After all the site visits are completed, the committee votes on which houses they liked best. Sometimes, though, the decision comes down to logistics: if the house doesn’t have enough parking to meet demand, for instance, it gets cut.
Which homes should we get excited about?
“I’m always impressed with the homes that make the final cut,” Meckfessel says, but there are a few homes he’s especially excited about this year. They range from a freshly rebuilt property to one that’s “stood the test of time.”
The first is 7715 Northaven Rd. Architect Bruce Bernbaum lived on the property with his wife, Cindy, when the house was destroyed by the 2019 tornado that swept through Dallas, taking a large chunk of Preston Hollow with it. The Bernbaums rebuilt their home (which was hit again by a second tornado in 2021) bigger and better than before, complete with a hefty storm shelter. It’s a cool house, Meckfessel says. He likes homes architects design for themselves. “I think they’re probably their hardest client.”
The second home is 5016 Maple Springs Blvd. Built in 1950 by renown Dallas architect Howard Prinz, the mid-century modern is a bit off AIA’s beaten tour path. Typically, they try to pick homes built in the past three-to-five years, Meckfessel says. But the award-winning 72-year-old house is “a highlight to the past.” It shows, he says, how a home can be modernized while maintaining its historic character.
So can I see all these houses in one day?
The tour takes place on Saturday and Sunday. “It’s kind of a go-at-your-own-pace-type thing,” Meckfessel says. Some people will try to squeeze in all eight houses in one day. Others will take their time at each property, scheduling visits across both days. Usually, the designing architect or someone from their firm is on-site “to answer any questions you may have about the house.” You can power through the house then move on to the next or wait around to get a behind-the-scenes discussion with the designers.
How can I get tickets?
Tickets are $50 for the full tour. When you buy tickets online ahead of time, present them at the first house, and you’ll receive a wristband pass for the weekend. Visitors can also show up to the tour and buy a pass onsite. If you don’t have time to check out all eight homes, the AIA Tour of Homes also offers a $20 pass for just one house. “But we recommend doing the entire tour,” Meckfessel says, “just because once you see that home, you’ll probably be like, ‘oh, man, I kind of want to see the other ones.’”