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The West Texas Attraction

In the Lake|Flato office, trips out to West Texas are common. A short 6-7 hour drive - we are talking Texas proportions here - will land you in the middle of the phenomenal yet unforgiving landscape that is the mountain-speckled desert. But what's so great about the middle of nowhere? I've spent a deal of time trying to explain it to others and I still can't put words to it well. There's a feeling out there in Marfa, Fort Davis, Marathon, Big Bend and more that reaches deep. For me, it's the pairing of a humble regional design with the idea that we are vulnerable to the environment.     Having developed the master plan for El Cosmico, a hotel experience in Marfa unlike any other, Lake|Flatonians have the privilege of enjoying it on a regular basis. Between sleeping in refurbished airstreams, tents, or hammocks, we are really just visitors in this place just as much as the designs seem to be. The outdoor showers are infamous; weathered wood flanked by gabion walls, greenery and warm water assure a comfortable wake-up call. But really, El Cosmico is a well-crafted reflection of the spaces around it. These towns are full of clever re-use. Structures show respect to material resources and the sun that beats down on them. Here, resources are carefully treated as precious and scarce, resulting in elegant solutions. Every object has a story of the place and doesn't forsake its ephemeral quality. These things sit in a wild, unruly place that is humbling and terrifying all at once. It's a place where resources we take for granted are truly a gift from nature. This is a place of extremes - 110 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, freezing at night.     But West Texas is made of more than landscapes and stuff. It is even moreso about people, or perhaps the lack thereof. With those who reside in or travel the West, there is a great appreciation for the act of lives crossing because it's less frequent; you rarely pass another human being without acknowledgement. My conversations with strangers there have been meaningful and unique, all between two seconds and three-hours long. Why is it that I'm so in love with the people I meet, the landscape, the treatment of light, the wide-open and starry sky... the Acapulco chairs I watch the sun rise in, even?     It comes down to simplicity. These places give us an opportunity to strip away the excess in our lives. We give ourselves the time and the environment necessary to be with ourselves or those we care about, with few distractions. We are gifted moments to think about what really doesn't matter and come face to face with a vulnerable and beautiful human state free of the stress we've manufactured for ourselves in life. As a regular visitor, I believe that little Best Made map in El Cosmico: Everything Here is Wonderful. But in the end I am just a visitor.   Find more photos of my trips to West Texas here.
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