Strokes of Genius
Dick Clark’s designs came to life through South Congress hot spots, downtown restaurants and bars, and stunning private residences.
Photos: Dick Clark + Associates, Mitch Avitt
Dick Clark shaped Austin’s architectural vernacular
Pencil, tracing paper, or often a napkin: That’s all he needed to create a true stroke of genius. Make that many strokes. Architect Dick Clark, founder of Dick Clark + Associates, designed some of Austin’s most iconic meeting and living spaces, forever leaving an imprint on the city he loved.
When he died last year after a battle with leukemia and complications from pneumonia, 1,000 of his best friends gathered at Austin’s Paramount Theatre to pay tribute. Each received a keepsake showcasing his work and his words, including this quintessential quote: “Architecture is not just about a building. It’s about people. No matter how beautiful or functional the design, architecture’s true meaning is found in those who live their lives in the spaces we create.”
This philosophy towards his work made his clients and colleagues feel like family, and he treated them like one of his own. Clark, who earned degrees in business administration and architecture at UT Austin, was a valued mentor to the next generation of architects who launched notable careers.
Clark drew inspiration from the world around him, whether limestone cliffs buffeted by Lake Travis or colonial structures built on the island of Saint Barthélemy. In an interview with “Inside the Design Studio,” he shared, “Architects have an eye that doesn’t shut, and when you travel, the stimulus is always there. When young people ask me what to do, I tell them to travel.”
To help make that possible, he set up the Dick Clark Travel Fund for architecture students who demonstrate excellence in architectural design and have financial need. The power of this international travel fund in providing meaningful life and learning experiences is hard to overstate.
Clark’s iconic designs include City View Residence (above), 612 West, Nightcap, Kenichi and 1400 South Congress.
His ties to the School of Architecture ran deep. Clark was a life member of the school’s advisory council and supported many initiatives through the Goldsmith Society. In 2016, he served on the search committee whose work resulted in the appointment of Dean Michelle Addington.
Clark also was committed to supporting the school’s future. Through his estate, he established an endowment to fund the Dick Clark III Endowed Scholarship in Architecture. This scholarship will help recruit the best and brightest students to the school.
A second endowment supports the Dick Clark III Chair in Architecture. It was Clark’s heartfelt desire to build upon the school’s history of attracting excellent faculty members who would shape the education of future generations.
“Dick wanted more than anything to see a chair in his name. He knew a chair would be a lasting legacy and help in recruiting and honoring top faculty and student talent,” said Sherry Matthews, CEO of Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing and Clark’s longtime friend.
Clark shared in a recorded interview, “I moved around a lot to different parts of the country, Central America, Europe. When I decided I had done what I needed to do, I came back to Austin — the only place I would have come back to.”
And the better his school, his field and his city are for it.
At Clark’s memorial service, Dean Addington reflected on his impact. “Dick’s presence surrounds us in the modern architecture that he inflected with a Texan regionalism, in the fabric of Austin’s downtown, and in the faces of the students I see in our studios every day.”