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2005ReadersArchitecture & Lodging

Best Architecture
Frost Bank Tower

The tallest building in town, this retro-future skyscraper looms large over the skyline, providing an obvious beacon of change, signaling an era of things to come. Designed by HKS Inc., who along with Lake/Flato will design the new UT Hotel & Conference Center in 2008, the Frost is 515 feet of glass and steel. This new landmark keeps Austin characteristically weird with its owl face looking down over the city and characteristically Austin with a 30-foot cedar tree perched high atop the mechanical penthouse.

Frost Bank Tower, 401 Congress, 512/473-4343, www.frostbank.com

Best Bathroom
Four Seasons

Perched atop marble-inspired countertops, pyramids of crisp, rolled terrycloth provide an elegant respite from the scratchy paper way to dry one's hands. Each commode of this lavish lavatory has its own room, ensuring peace and privacy in this ultimate answer to nature's call. Shimmery gold everywhere adds a touch of majesty, making the experience of relieving oneself that much closer to that of a king or queen on a throne. Literally.

Four Seasons Hotel, 98 San Jacinto, 512/478-4500, www.fourseasons.com

Best Bed & Breakfast
Austin Folk House

Aside from all those standard B&B touches - high thread count, broadband cable access, bath robes, etc. - Austin Folk House is famous for its delicious breakfast that can be ordered ahead at reservation and served in bed once you're there. Then there's the main hallway, loaded with "outsider" art. Of course, they offer the requisite massage and couple's packages, but where else can you order an Unromantic: I Am Dumping You Package? Our readers luv the Folk House... for the third year in a row.

Austin Folk House, 506 W. 22nd, 512/472-6700, www.austinfolkhouse.com

Best Billboard
Babies Were Born to Be Breastfed

An integral part of the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign, this billboard can either be construed as a gentle reminder that boobs are for nurturing babes or as a hegemonic attempt to prevent moms from going to the bathroom by themselves for a year or so. We prefer the former. Interestingly enough, the second place holder in this poll category was "None, they all suck."

National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign, www.womenshealth.gov, www.womenshealth.gov

Best Cemetery
Texas State Cemetery

Of course it's the best cemetery in Austin; it's the most coveted burial spot in the state, with residents such as Barbara Jordan, Bob Bullock, and even our town's namesake, Stephen F. Austin. Don't even try to reserve a space; the only folks who get a headstone here are state officials and those specified by legislative proclamation (and we all know how long it takes the Legislature to do anything).

Texas State Cemetery, 909 Navasota, 512/463-0605, www.cemetery.state.tx.us

Best City Beautification
TIE: City Hall, 2nd Street District

Both of these winners have turned formerly overlooked areas into creative showcases of urban potential. The limestone, copper-clad Austin City Hall is designed for public gatherings like the popular lunchtime live music shows. The civic center offers free public parking after-hours and anchors one end of the new shopping district, which features furniture, home goods, men's and women's clothing and accessories, as well as new coffee shops and restaurants. Both define the revitalization of downtown ... and look good, too.

2nd Street District, 201 Lavaca, 512/479-7600, www.2ndstreetdistrict.com

Best Historic Site
Texas State Capitol

It's true: Everything is bigger in Texas. Our capitol building is no exception. Taller than our nation's own, it's our most popular local tourist destination. Even longtime Austinites can’t help but admire the imposing pink edifice that tops the drive up Congress Avenue. Step back in time, peruse the portraits of governors past, poke around the basement, bounce some echoes off the rotunda floor, and check out the always entertaining guestbook ("We love your state! God Bless Bush!"). The vast lawns and 17 monuments provide perfect photo opps and lovely spots to spread out a romantic picnic or to doze off and dream of more effective government.

Texas State Capitol, 1100 Congress, 512/305-8400, www.tspb.state.tx.us

Best Hotel
Hotel San Jose

Clean lines: the epitome of style. With its mix of history and culture, neighborhood and privacy, what used to be a run-down motorcourt has evolved into one of the nation's hottest, hippest hotel havens. Owner Liz Lambert had a vison, enlisted design firm Lake/Flato, and went for it. Is it a coincidence that we've now got a community of commerce flourishing on South Congress?

Hotel San José, 1316 S. Congress, 512/852-2360, www.sanjosehotel.com

Best Indoor Public Space
Austin City Hall

It waters its own plants with the condensation from air conditioners; it powers itself with a fabulously futuristic awning over an outdoor amphitheater; it’s fully wired with free public Wi-Fi; and not only that, it looks cool. Dang right it’s the best new building, indoors and out. A civic prototype for the new milennium, our new City Hall is Austin's gracious new invitation to all citizens to come in and participate with plasma screen TVs providing live feeds of the city's proceedings and electronic kiosks in the lobby where folks can make comments to the electorate. Oh! And all the plants and trees on the grounds are native to Texas; it’s covered in copper that will change into various stages of gorgeous patina over the next 30 years; and it has a stinger! Beat that, skyline!

Best Lobby/Waiting Room
Driskill Hotel

Opened in 1886 to rival the great hotel showpieces of San Francisco and New York, the Driskill is as storied as it is opulent. The lobby welcomes patrons with classic marble whites and leather browns, as soft light drifts from the chandeliers above. Never let it be said, however, that the Driskill is not of Texas. The upper lobby pays tribute to the history of the Texas cattle barons, a history the hotel helped form.

The Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos, 512/439-1234, www.driskillhotel.com

Best Motel
Austin Motel

Most South Congress newbies giggle at the sight of the Austin Motel’s – um – shapely neon sign. In the marquee’s words, the landmark has been “Corporate Free Since 1938,” evident in the range of decor across its 41 rooms. The hipster in us loves the minimalistic 115, turquoise and yellow, Saltillo-tiled, and adjacent to the kidney-shaped pool. For a slightly kitschier experience, the mural rooms won’t disappoint: Try 253, which boasts a bedside view of the Great Wall of China and panda comforters. Be forewarned, though: Business is booming; the motel suggests three-month advanced reservations.

Austin Motel, 1220 S. Congress, 512/441-1157, www.austinmotel.com

Best New Building (Past Five Years)
Austin City Hall

It waters its own plants with the condensation from air conditioners; it powers itself with a fabulously futuristic awning over an outdoor amphitheatre; it’s fully wired with free public Wi-Fi; and not only that, it looks cool. Dang right it’s the best new building, indoors and out. A civic prototype for the new millennium, our new City Hall is Austin's gracious new invitation to all citizens to come in and participate with plasma screen TVs providing live feeds of the city's proceedings and electronic kiosks in the lobby where folks can make comments to the electorate. Oh! And all the plants and trees on the grounds are native to Texas; it’s covered in copper that will change into various stages of gorgeous patina over the next 30 years; and it has a stinger! Beat that, skyline!

Best Outdoor Public Space
Zilker Park/Barton Springs

Home to Austin's annual holiday Trail of Lights, the ACL Fest, and Barton Springs, Zilker holds a mighty hunk of Austin bragging rights. Everyday features include a disc-golf course, fields for soccer, and plenty of wide-open spaces for family, friends, and canine pals to frolic. It also invites relaxation with ample tree shade, gigantic rock formations to sprawl out on, ducks and turtles to observe, and an outdoor theatre. One question remains: What are you doing in front of that TV set when you could be out enjoying Zilker Park?!

Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd., 512/974-6700, www.austintexas.gov

Best Recent Renovation
Factory People

With its recharged decor and Web site, FactoryPeople keeps its cutting edge razor sharp. While their Industrial Age-toned nom de commerce may evoke creepy visions of Pink Floyd's The Wall, the recent remodeling recalls a certain Cold War wall on the night of its celebrated destruction. The explosive blocks of murals (including works by Peat Duggins, Rachel Koper, and Baseera Khan) oddly evoke happy people rocking out atop brightly spray-painted slabs of concrete as the Berlin monolith came a-tumblin' down.

FactoryPeople, 1325 S. Congress, 512/440-8625, www.factorypeople.com

Best Sign
TIE: Austin Motel, El Arroyo

Do we have to choose between one that is "so far out" and one that is so outlandish? It was too close to call, so we didn't.

Austin Motel, 1220 S. Congress, 512/441-1157, www.austinmotel.com

El Arroyo, 1624 W. Fifth, 512/474-1222, www.elarroyo.com

El Arroyo, 7032 Wood Hollow, 512/345-8226, www.elarroyo.com

Best Street
South Congress

Rows upon rows of hip boutiques, unique eateries, vintage treasure troves, and Austin's notable Hotel San José and Austin Motel await, just south of the river. Each month, on First Thursdays, SoCo stays open late, and folks from all over Austin pour in to enjoy a wild night of music, art, and, of course, shopping, making this popular strip more an event than an avenue.

Best Window Display
Blackmail

Like a Tim Burton nightmare gone terribly, terribly right, Blackmail's eagerly anticipated window displays take black very seriously: minimalist, spartan, concise ... while a certain elaborate "so-goth-it's-dead" playfulness draws passersby right on in. Perhaps exactly what shop owner and design maven Gail Chovan has in mind.

Blackmail, 1202 S. Congress, 512/804-5881, www.blackmailboutique.com

2005 Intro
Readers: Arts & Culture
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