Celebrate Austin design through a week of free workshops, talks, studio tours and events this November as the city celebrates its creative community in the third annual Austin Design Week.

Mark Odom + Mari Russ Share What Inspires Their Design In Architecture

Hellooooo Austinites!! Guess what?! Only FOUR more days until our annual Austin Design Week! I hope you’re prepared for everything to come, and if you want to learn more about what to expect read of our features on our blog page!

This wonderful fall Friday welcomes Principal Architect Mark Odom and Project Architect Mari Russ from Mark Odom Studio! Read on to see where/how their inspiration influences their work in the architectural design space.


1. Finding unused space—then redefining its expectation


The Highline in New York City is a beautiful adaptive reuse project that’s inspirational every time I visit. The negotiation between intersections, old & new, public & private, and vegetation versus hardscape is a perfect example of unexpected moments and subtle transition of opposites. NYC can be intimidating in many ways; to experience the city from the Highline’s vantage point sets a less daunting perspective that frames the streetscape so that it can be appreciated under a completely different experience.

2. Getting lost—traveling


Although I don’t do it enough, travel is the best way to gain inspiration. This image of rooftops quilting the city streets below is from the top of the Duomo in Florence, Italy. Getting lost in local culture—no matter where travel takes me—and understanding the spirit of place is always a goal when traveling.

3. Knowing your happy place—recharge


Water has been a simple pleasure for me that helps balance life’s moments. Knowing what makes you happy is critical to maintaining a healthy mind so that inspiration can be appreciated from all avenues. NLAND Surf Park in Austin is a guilty pleasure that brings smiles with every visit: I’m able to recharge, then head back to the city.


1. The elemental ingredients and discovery of new taste profiles while cooking


Going back to elemental ingredients, finding new taste profiles by adding/subtracting, combining in different proportions to a different end result is very inspiring. Being from New Orleans and loving to eat, doesn't hurt. There’s freedom to be experimental here. Kind of like Uchiko/Otoko, most raw (excuse the pun) version of the fish. Removing the excess and truly showcasing what the fish offers. I like to try and break apart architecture this way—pulling out the most basic need/function and finding a new perspective for it. Finding inspiration by seeing how chefs can consistently reinvent the same three ingredients. It doesn't need to complicated (anything foam) instead merely stripping away the pretense. This is my excuse for going out to eat all the time.

2. A healthy dose of traveling at least once per year

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Obviously I can't travel everyday, but a healthy dose every year can last you throughout. I recently got back from Italy (Positano and Florence to be exact) and earlier this summer I went to Nice, France. There seems to be an inventiveness here—inventive maybe because of necessity but nonetheless, from creative ways of finding place for function/need and even vice/versa finding function for place. The infill and density is refreshing, unnecessary/wasted space is nonexistent. Modern amenities inside decades/centuries old buildings reminds me of the challenge but excitement in a remodel versus a clean slate. There is always flexibility to switch perspectives and create new meaning.

3. The Thinking Hand by Juhani Pallasmaa


"In my view, architecture turns similarly into mere aesthetics when it departs from its originally motives of domesticating space and time, an animistic understanding of the world, and the metaphoric representation of the act of construction. Every art form needs to be reconnected with its ontological essence, particularly at periods when the art form tends to turn into an empty aestheticized mannerism." Juhani Pallasmaa, The Thinking Hand

Read it here.

4. Reading what initially captured my attention and garnered my love for the art

"Shaping [our] surroundings entails a lot more than spatial, structural, mechanical, and other technical considerations – certainly a lot more than pontificating about matters of style. Our organic well-being is dependent on a wholesome, salubrious environment. Therefore exacting attention has to be paid to our intricate sensory world. This is primary if our surroundings are to stimulate our abundant perceptual, intellectual, and spiritual capacities, while at the same time accommodating our physiological nature and functional needs in a durable fashion." - Richard Neutra, “Cross-Section of a Credo.”

I love going back and reading what initially captured my attention and garnered my love for the art. It reminds me why i'm here—to share my love and understanding with those that haven't studied academically or professionally.

Come underground on Nov. 8th and hang out in Mark Odom Studio's 1940s fallout shelter-turned office space located in Old West Austin around the corner from the historic Treaty Oak. Rich in history, the concrete-covered studio used to be home to a Coca Cola bottling company.

Enjoy light refreshments while discussing their work—including the new Bumble HQ and Torchy's Tacos all over Texas. The team will also have VR goggles and mood boards available for viewing.

Mark Odom Studio


Curious about Commercial and Residential Design? Visit our office as a public gallery space that allows visitors to see our process from schematic design through construction. We will have sketches, models, 3d walkthroughs, VR goggles, materials board, a large format projector and Architects and Associates available for discussion. We like to talk, come talk to us. Find out more and register here!


The Austin Design Week Blog is curated and produced in partnership with Left Right Media. Left Right Media is a creative agency in Austin, specializing in branding, web design, app design and digital strategy. Their success is a result of both an analytical (left) and creative (right) approach to design.