Pollen Architecture & Design is a practice founded by principals with backgrounds in architecture, art and construction. Pollen’s collaborative approach integrates skill-sets from these interrelated forms of practice in the creation of projects that are experientially rich and genuinely sustainable. Our projects begin with our clients’ needs and dreams, and the specific context of their sites. Our design process incorporates digital tools, rigorous hands-on development, and full-scale samples to establish identity and performance specific to each. Our background in building helps us work effectively with builders and craftspeople. Our approach results in buildings that are practical and delightful, well-crafted and inventive.
Elizabeth Alford founded Pollen Architecture in Austin, Texas in 2008 with Michael Young, and Dason Whitsett. Elizabeth’s work centers on creating engaging spaces that are carefully integrated into their surroundings, both natural settings and urban contexts. Elizabeth uses section, natural light and materiality to enrich the experience of a space. Prior to forming Pollen, Elizabeth ran her own firm, Elizabeth Alford Projects in Austin and New York, doing projects including studio renovations and farm buildings.
Since inception, Pollen has received substantial recognition for its work. Most recently, their Balcones House had over 2700 visitors as part of the 2011 AIA Austin Homes Tour. Their 12th Street Studios project won an AIA Design Award in 2010 and the UTSoA Student Architecture Award in 2009. Their work has been published in Detail Magazine, Architecture Record, and most recently, on the cover of Tribeza, Austin’s local design magazine. Elizabeth has lectured at the UT School of Architecture, in Austin’s “Architecture at the Umlauf” series, in Pecha Kucha #5, and at Portland State University.
Elizabeth has taught architecture design studios at the University of Texas at Austin since 2003, as well as seminars on factory production of houses and building components. She organized the conference “Site::Offsite, Architecture and the Factory-Built House” in 2004, and received a Graham Foundation grant to produce a book of the same name. She was a faculty advisor for two UT Solar Decathlon teams.
Elizabeth graduated from Wellesley College and holds a Masters Degree in Architecture from Columbia University, where she was awarded the AIA Citation of Merit for outstanding graduate work. Before returning to her native Austin, Elizabeth apprenticed with leading design firms in New York and abroad, including Smith-Miller+Hawkinson Architects, A.R.O., Polshek & Partners, and O.M.A. Her work with these offices has been published extensively in books and magazines.
Michael Young was trained as an artist with the primary focus of his practice being on geometric abstraction and design. Central to his work is a dialectic relationship between natural materials and objects as relating to architecture. His interest in applying the principles of this previous work and craft to the built environment lead him to become one of the founding principals of Pollen. He conceptualizes use of materials in our projects, bringing a high level of inventiveness and craft to the process. He develops aesthetically tuned construction assemblies and details using a hands-on approach, often working with a material that he has developed specifically for a project. He brings a particular graphic sensibility to working out elevations.
Prior to forming Pollen, Michael was an artist, and he continues to draw and paint. His work as an artist has been exhibited nationally and internationally in galleries and museums, both private and public sites. His work has been included in significant museum collections including the Hirschorn Museum of the Smithsonian, The High Museum in Atlanta, The Museum Of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Seibu Museum in Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Michael taught art for many years, including eight years in the Graduate Painting program of the Rhode Island School of Design. Most recently, he co-taught a studio at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture with Elizabeth Alford. He has also taught at Princeton University, Brandeis University and the Brearley School in New York City.
Michael received his M.F.A. from the Yale University School of Art, where he won the Alice B. Kimball Prize, and a B.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He attended the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program and the Skowhegan School of Sculpture and Painting summer residency. He received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for his art.
Gerard D’Arcy has been working in architecture since 2001 and has been licensed since 2010. He holds a B.ARCH from the University of Houston and a M.ARCH from the University of Arizona, with a focus in Design, Energy Conservation, and Sustainability. His thesis developed a system of ecological design principles as a guide for the sustainable development of multi-family/mixed-use buildings in desert regions.
Outside the office, he has been involved in community-based design projects. His HOPE micro-chapel was recently built at the Community First Village outside of Austin http://communityinn.mlf.org/what-is-community-first. He currently is involved in the Westcreek Greenway pocket park & trail improvements in his neighborhood in South Austin.
He and his wife Erin have two daughters, Karys-9 & Julia-4, and a blue healer named Fonzi.
A native of Virginia, Elizabeth moved to Austin to pursue a degree at the University of Texas at Austin, and graduated with a Master of Architecture in 2015. She also holds a B.S. Architecture from the University of Virginia.
In her free time, Elizabeth pursues design and fabrication hobbies from woodworking to watercolor. When not at work, you’re likely to find her riding her bicycle in and around Austin.
John is a native Mississippian who brings a maker/doer attitude to his design work. Skilled in fabrication, as well as design, he has the ability to execute the details. John has worked with Pollen since 2009 and has been instrumental in projects including the Balcones House and St. Edward’s Chapel.
Stuart joins Pollen after graduating with a B. Arch from the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. He and his studio were recognized with UTSoA’s Design Excellence Award for their work with UTSoA’s Gulf Coast DesignLab and Prof. Coleman Coker.
Stuart is fascinated by architecture’s ability to embed meaning and values into the built environment. He is excited to explore this interest with Pollen’s process of investigating materiality, incorporating natural light, and engaging with the surrounding context.
Silvano Reza has worked with Pollen for many years, starting as a carpenter when we were doing design-build. He is a craftsman who can do it all (he wears many hats), including studio assistant, finisher, welder, carpenter, landscaper and sometimes electrician.