Program: A 1.1-million-square-foot mixed-use complex housing a new W Hotel and a new music venue and recording studio for the PBS show Austin City Limits. The project includes a 37-story hotel and condo tower, a public plaza, retail space, and office space. A portion of the residences and retail—which so far consists of an Urban Outfitters and several restaurants—is finished, with the remainder to be completed in 2012.
Design concept and solution: Drawing on the simple forms and pure shapes of minimalist art, Andersson-Wise Architects conceived the hotel as a narrow tower defined by light and shadow. To give the aluminum curtain wall a sleek, unbroken appearance, they turned the mullions inward to face the interior of the building. Vertical stacks of recessed balconies on the north and south facades set off the reflective curtain wall and add definition and shadow to the tower. Inspired by the Native American cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, the balconies function as shaded exterior rooms; they are oriented to admit light during the winter and block it during summer. The architects kept the east and west sides of the cast-in-place concrete frame structure narrow to limit sun exposure, using projecting balconies on these facades so that each level shades the one below it. They scaled the base of the hotel tower—and the Austin City Limits venue, located behind the tower—at four stories to echo the heights of neighboring buildings, including the Antoine Predock–designed city hall to the south. Andersson-Wise interpreted the music venue as a kind of minimalist black box, clad with fiber-cement composite panels in two shades of black. A long recessed porch—another linear expanse of shadow, this time horizontal—serves as the venue's main social gathering space. Collaborating on the interiors with the hotel's director of design,Heather Plimmer, the architects imagined the ground floor as a cavelike respite from the Texas sun. The interior unfolds as a series of rooms—a living room, a library of vinyl records, a "secret" bar—that feel increasingly intimate and secluded. The blue gray of the polished concrete floors and the structural concrete columns sets off a warm palette of walnut-board walls and earth-toned sofas with bohemian-bright accents of red and rust.