When Stephen Brady Dietert, or “Brady” as he’s often referred walks into a room, it’s hard to miss his tall stature. At over 6 feet 5 inches tall, he has quite a presence, but once you start talking to him, you immediately sense his immense passion for our community.
To state that music is a part of Brady’s life would be a gross understatement. A Kerrville native, Brady started writing songs while still in high school; in fact, he and a friend composed their graduation song. A slew of various, comical band names, playing local house parties, and gigs at White Rabbit were the extent of the high school years, but it wasn’t until moving to San Marcos for college that he began to hone his craft. Studying history allowed him to better understand the context of our time and how he came to live in a specific place. He wanted to understand the story of his family who settled to Texas from Germany in the 1800’s, and what it means to live in different governmental systems throughout history. Concurrently, he began attending a songwriters’ circle with the late Kent Finlay at the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos. Texas songwriting is a beautifully rugged form of therapy in which, if done well done, the songwriter uncovers a truth about life, usually a solemn aspect of life, that helps the listener realize something profound about their own experience here in existence. Kent Finlay and many of the friends he met there Brady considers heroes and life-long friends.
After graduating from Texas State University in 2005, with a History and Business degree, Brady moved to Austin to play music, bartend, and work as an enumerator for the U.S. Census Bureau. After a year of freedom and adventure, Brady needed to return to his family’s ranch, located in Real County, to help out for a while. The Dietert Ranch has been managed by the family for over 6 generations, and much care is given to the maintenance of the land and the animals it sustains. This delicate balance among all the various factors needed to successfully run this enduring enterprise instilled, in his character, a great appreciation for the environment and the delicacy of ecosystems. While there, his grandfather mentioned that the corner window in his bedroom, of the ranch house he had built for his grandmother, was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s design philosophy and influence. It was built to show his grandmother that she could have modern and beautiful things in the fashion of the time, even out on the Dietert Ranch. It became somewhat of a metaphor in Brady’s life as it opened up a new world of interest in architectural theory and design. He also learned that his great-grandfather had also built his home on the property and it ran on electricity from wind-turbines, with homemade batteries, back in the 1930’s and 40’s. Brady was piecing together his interests and refining his world view through architectural artifacts, intentionally put in place by previous generations.
Brady’s father, Stephen W. Dietert, is a rancher, and craftsman of sorts, working with the economical materials at hand. He is wildly creative and independent. He has worked on his own land for his entire life, motived by the desire to carry on a way of life, that for most of the advanced world, seems to be fading away. He works with metal and welds contraptions and practical implements for the operations and maintenance the Ranch. Brady grew up working from the age of 10 years old as his father’s helper. He watched and helped as his father would weld deer feeders, cattle troughs, and repair automobiles. They used to get up before sunlight to gather and saddle the horses for a long day of rounding up livestock; cattle, angora goats, or sheep. He learned how animals behave in different weather conditions and how to use nature to their advantage. He learned that if you yield to the tendencies of nature, it will serve you well, and if you forcefully work against it, nature will prevail. Around hunting season, Brady would spend time maintaining the deer feeders, so that the timers would go off reliably for the guests. The batteries are charged by a simple direct current from a small solar panel. While wiring up a new deer feeder, Brady began imagining how clean energy, with a decentralized distribution grid could make living autonomously in remote locations possible and poetic. He wanted to build a solar powered ranch house, that was modern, clean, and integrated in the landscape. He found an opportunity to volunteer on a solar house with an U.S. Department of Energy event called the Solar Decathlon.
Trips to Austin followed, to work as a volunteer on The University of Texas-School of Architecture’s 2007 Solar Decathlon project called “The Bloomhouse.” He was a passionate and enthusiastic volunteer, and as such, was asked to join the UT team and travel to Washington DC, where he helped assemble the modular, solar powered home, gave tours, and maintained the solar panel array. He also helped move the house to its permanent location on the side of a mountain at The McDonald Observatory in West Texas. Meeting architecture students and professors piqued his interest further, and he decided to attend the “Career Change Program” at Texas A&M University where he completed his Master of Architecture Degree, focusing his studies in sustainable design. He was the President of the Aggie Emerging Green Builders and earned certificates in Sustainable Urbanism and Historic Preservation as a student at A&M. This career path enabled him to create environmentally responsive buildings while also allowing him to continue creating stories, now through architecture.
In 2012, Brady graduated with his master’s in architecture and left College Station for Dallas to work with one of the premier architecture firm’s based in Texas, Corgan; where, for two years, he refined his skills as a designer and developed his professionalism in the field. While at a convention in neighboring Fort Worth, he met Richard Archer, from San Antonio-based firm Overland Partners. This proved to be a life-changing encounter, as Brady soon found himself headed to Alamo City to find out more about Overland’s inspiring design philosophy and shared purpose partnerships.
All Roads Lead to San Antonio
With a new position at Overland, Brady made his way to San Antonio in 2014. The city resonated with him on a personal level because his family had lived here generations ago. Professionally, Brady considers San Antonio a hot bed of architecture, with little trace of homogeny, due to both the history of the city and the many independent design firms that are based here. He wasted no time getting involved with several young professional groups, in addition to getting gigs at area music venues. In June of 2015, he decided to officially call San Antonio home by buying a house near the downtown area. He wrote about the experience in the local blog, The Rivard Report, and discussed a couple programs that helped him as a first time homeowner.
Now a full-fledged San Antonian, work projects continue to keep Brady busy, and he recently attended the grand opening of a cheese company headquarters in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin whose building he helped design. He’s also part of a leadership program through the local chapter of the AIA called the Professional Practice Leadership Program or 2PLP, which enables architects starting out in their career to gain both knowledge and exposure in their industry, and ultimately make a positive impact in the field. Within that group, he is exploring various ways he and fellow young leaders can help our city’s homeless population by developing alternatives to traditional homeless shelters. He also works with the local AIA’s Committee on The Environment (COTE) to bring outreach and awareness of environmental issues related to architecture within the community. He organized a photo exhibit called, “Images of Sustainability,” where local photographers exhibited their photography and local songwriters performed original songs at the opening event at Rosella Coffee last March.
When he’s not working, or spending time making renovations to his home, he’s out crooning with his band RANCH\HOUSE (www.ranchhousemusic.com), a band he has described as Hill-Country-Indie-Folk-Rock. Their album, What Maps Don’t Show, is available for purchase on ITunes and Spotify, and they perform quite frequently around SA and the surrounding area. Brady loves writing music and rehearsing with his band mates Matt Carrell, Dylan Ilseng, and other musicians in the growing music scene here in San Antonio. They are working toward recording their second album soon.
Tom Waits once said, “My father was an exhaust manifold and my mother was a tree.” This resonates with Brady because he describes his mother as an artist, painter and a beautiful nurturer, and his father as a rancher, welder and rugged individual. They are both examples of relentless creativity and fierce individualism, always emphasizing the value of imagination and wonder. He believes that architecture was the perfect career choice to synthesize the influences of his parents and the values they instilled in him. He is thankful for their love and support over the years. Brady’s Sister, Mendy Dietert, is also very creative and entrepreneurial. As a hairstylist in Austin, and passionate creator, she enlisted Brady to help her design and manufacture her own hair styling tool for men’s haircuts called The Fade Comb (www.thefadecomb.com), and she also runs a small business called Mendylou’s Mended Finds where she sells restored furniture and art in an effort to reuse and upcycle materials.
Brady is inspired and happy to be in San Antonio. There are so many things changing and progressing, and he is looking for ways to be involved as leader and a servant. The things that Brady enjoys the most about living in San Antonio is spending time with people that keep him inspired, local musicians, and all the brilliant minds at Overland Partners that he feels lucky to work with on a daily basis. Even though he’s only been here for 2 years, we are sure that both his passion for the city and the positive impact he makes, will continue to grow. There will always be more stories for him to tell of the life he has made through music and architecture.
Article by A.M. Anderson with special contributions by S. Brady Dietert