Thomas Shefelman, longtime Austin architect, died at 89 last December, but many buildings he assisted in designing are still standing across the city. Shefelman and his firm, Shefelman & Nix, also specialized in renovations to existing buildings, including projects for the Steven F. Austin Hotel and Norwood Tower. Here are a few examples of Shefelman’s striking modernist designs in Austin.
The Starr Building
Perhaps Shefelman’s most famous contribution to the city was his work on the Starr Building for architectural firm Kuehne, Brooks and Barr in 1954. The building, which was originally built for the American National Bank and later housed the offices of the State Comptroller lay abandoned for years, until its renovation in 2010. The building is now home to advertising agency McGarrah Jessee, who appear to appreciate its midcentury looks enough to keep it that way.
Central Presbyterian Church
Shefelman designed many churches during his career, but the undisputed leader of the pack is Central Presbyterian at Brazos and Eighth Streets. Its striking interior hosted Shefelman’s memorial service last month — quite an honor to be remembered inside your own building.
Austin Public Library, Manchaca Road Branch
Shefelman’s firm received an AIA Design Award for the Manchaca Road Library, completed in 1974. The building’s open concept was rare for libraries at the time, and the branch boasted at least twice as many book checkouts than average in the city when it first opened.
Fulmore Middle School Library Renovation
Shefelman’s firm converted a courtyard between two buildings at Fulmore Middle School into a new library space, with the exterior featuring large metal structures intended to shelter students moving between buildings.
Norwood Tower Renovation
Norwood Tower, one of Austin’s most beloved pieces of downtown architecture since 1929, was long overdue for an interior renovation when Shefelman and his firm got their hands on it in the 1980s. Of course, it was only an interior renovation — no self-respecting architect would dare touch the exterior of Austin’s “castle in the sky.”