Laity Lodge Cedar Brake Leakey, Texas | Laity Lodge   |   Leakey, Texas   |   90,000 GSF

Laity Lodge Biophilia from Overland Partners on Vimeo.

Nestled in the Texas Hill Country, a crystalline river runs through a hidden canyon. In this space The H. E. Butt Family Foundation created Laity Lodge, a spiritual retreat center to refresh and bring wholeness to God’s people working in the world. When it was time for an upgrade, they found a natural co-laborer in Overland Partners.

Empowering the Laity
In the 1950s Howard Butt Jr. was burning the candle at both ends. A prominent businessman with his father’s growing grocery chain, H-E-B, he was also traveling almost every weekend as a popular lay preacher (oftentimes speaking alongside Billy Graham). The combination proved to be too much and resulted in a deep personal depression. In 1961, his parents built Laity Lodge “as a tool in his hands”—a place from which he would be able to devote the rest of his life to encouraging spiritual health, wholeness, and a sense of mission for the “laity”—the people—defined by the Christian belief that all of work and life is sacred.
Alignment of Mission

The facilities at Laity Lodge are beloved for their mid-century ranch aesthetic and rustic appeal. However, as the compound had grown in an ad hoc manner over the years, some housing structures aged better than others. When the property closed for renovations to the main lodge, the clients seized the opportunity to hire Overland to update another group of buildings, the nine-unit Cedar Brake lodging compound.In the thoughtful conversations that ensued, Overland and the Foundation found their missions deeply aligned. Overland was able to further develop the sacred experience of Laity Lodge visitors, and deepen their own practice as well.

In the end, the client realized that the site had more potential than they had previously dreamed.
“It’s a sacred place to me and an important place to me,” said Principal in charge Rick Archer who had been a speaker at Laity Lodge retreats in the past. “Being able to be a part of extending the work of Laity Lodge was rewarding.”

Elevating the Practice

While the primary purpose of the project was to update the Cedar Brake lodging facilities, the client quickly realized that Overland’s vision could lead them to a more profound place.

The site is tucked into a remote canyon, a stunning immediate landscape surrounded by miles and miles of rough terrain where the Texas Hill Country approaches the deserts of the far West. This sense of sanctuary and oasis is deeply moving for visitors coming into the canyon, and Overland was able to help the Foundation see how this sacred sense of welcome could manifest at the Lodge site as well.

Overland worked with landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck to improve the arrival sequence for visitors and to relocate parking, which had previously dominated the site. The team added an elegant jewel box entry to the Lodge and a meetings space for the Cedar Brake accommodations to elevate the space from mere housing to a celebration of its occupants.

The new Cedar Brake facilities will allow the Foundation to host retreats on a smaller scale. For families, corporations, and other private visitors, this makes the facility more appealing and flexible.

While ecological and social sustainability is core to the work of Laity Lodge, Overland’s innovative leadership helped them think beyond simply doing no harm to the river, to actually improving water quality downstream. In the end, the mission received an unexpected and welcomed breath of new life for a new generation to come.

Laity Lodge – A Human Handprint Case Study