Established in 1984, Lake/Flato Architects has gained national recognition for architecture that is very tied in to its place and successfully merges with the landscape. Lake/Flato creates buildings that are tactile and modern, environmentally responsible and authentic, artful and crafted. Four Lake/Flato projects have been selected as national Top Ten Green Projects by the AIA Committee on the Environment (two in 2006, 2007 and 2009). Lake/Flato has a staff of 57, with 15 LEED accredited professionals and a sustainability coordinator. Comprehensive and inclusive design reviews generate fresh ideas and firm-wide ownership of the work. A collaborative process with clients, other architects, engineers, specialty consultants and within the office creates a process that invites ideas to flourish.
Lake/Flato Architects states that environmental issues have always been central to their design approach. By employing sustainable strategies, they design architecture that conserves energy and natural resources while creating high-performance buildings and healthy buildling environments. It also has strong aesthetic appeal.
Lake/Flato designed the first LEED Platinum for new construction project in Texas and Indiana's first LEED Gold for new construction. In 2006 and 2007, three Lake/Flato projects were selected as Top Ten Green Projects by the national AIA Committee on the Environment. A fourth was awarded in May 2009.
One such project was the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. The project began with the restoration of the land, which had been closed to the public for 50 years. The primary goal was a plan for the facilities that balanced access with preservation of the site, which includes Adam's Bayou, a tupelo, a special tree, cypress swamp, pine uplands and prairie lowlands.
The architecture responds to both the manmade and natural environments of Shangri La so that the two worlds come together, united as one through architecture. The visitor center, which surrounds a wetlands demonstration garden, is the gateway to the historic ornamental gardens. It takes its inspiration from the brick, glass and steel greenhouses built in the early 1920s, which form one edge of the complex. Circulation is outdoors, often under wide canopies that protect from sun and rain. The structures in the natural areas—the nature discovery lab and pavilion, outdoor classrooms, bird area and boat house—were designed for minimal impact, floating above the land on pier foundations and powered by photovoltaic (solar) panels. The project earned the first LEED for New Construction Platinum rating in the state of Texas and the Gulf Coast region.
Lake/Flato's work is just an example of how their architecture is setting an example for sustainable buildling. EnviroCitizen.org hopes they continue to show how sustainable design in buildings can be accomplished.