Featured: Michael G. Imber Architects

Michael Imber, founder of eponymous firm Michael G. Imber Architects, PLLC, describes it as a “modern classical design firm.” That polarity of design styles is summed up in a description of the firm as “known for historic sentiment, modern execution.

Imber is known for his ranch and country houses throughout Texas, but also for designing buildings from the Bahamas to California, Colorado and Costa Rica.

Utopia Texas Ranch built by Sebastian Construction Group[Above, Rancho Sabino Grande, a Michael Imber-designed project, built by Sebastian Construction Group. In progress.]

It was Imber’s deep love of the history of architecture, first in Texas and then the wider US, which led the native Texas to travel east to launch his early career in the Washington DC firm of classicist Allan Greenberg, honing his drawing and drafting skills.

He returned to Texas and founded his eponymous firm in San Antonio in 1992.

Imber is both a scholar and a practitioner (he’s an instructor for Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Executive Education program.) His love of classical architecture led to his role as founding president of the Texas chapter of ICAA (Institute of Classical Architecture and Art.)

He’s known for matching traditional styles to local conditions, from a German Sunday House in Texas Hill Country to a Carpenter Gothic home in Galveston that withstood the landing of Hurricane Ike, shortly after completion.

A 2013 article on the website MySanAntonio.com commemorates the publication of his coffee table book titled “Michael G. Imber: Ranches, Villas and Houses.” In the article, Imber outlines his three goals when designing a home:

  • Meet the client’s needs (which involves a lot of conversation).
  • Marry the building with the landscape (which requires a lot of contemplation and sketching skill).
  • Create an architecture that is meaningful to the client and the culture (which means research of the region where the project is located).

Another profile in San Antonio Express-News highlights the deep thought that goes into Imber’s process: “He begins his designs by considering the land through watercolors and then develops his ideas in relation to climate and local historical references,” writes Elizabeth Dowling, professor emerita of architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology and author of “Ranches, Villas and Houses.”

Imber’s work has been featured in many local and national publications such as Coastal Living, New Old House, Texas Architect, Western Interiors, Southern Accents and Period Homes. He’s also racked up dozens of prestigious local and national design awards, starting with a Texas American Institute of Architects award in 1997. He later earned the 2007 Arthur Ross Award for commitment to the Classical tradition in residential architecture, the highest honor of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, along with three Palladio awards and the Texas Society of Architect’s William W. Caudill, FAIA Award.

Collaborating on Rancho Sabino Grande

The project known as Rancho Sabino Grande is Sebastian’s collaboration with Michael Imber. It’s underway in the Hill Country, west of San Antonio. Imber’s website features drawings of the project, along with  photos of the architect sketching the landscape.

Above: Sebastian Construction Group President John Sebastian and Michael Imber, FAIA, outside the Rancho Sabino Grande project