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2008CriticsArchitecture & Lodging

Best Architect Changing the Face of Austin
Jamie Chioco

Jamie Chioco is among those changing the face of Austin's urban space. A former associate with Dick Clark Architecture, Chioco's more public works can be seen everywhere, from the futuristic Galaxy Cafe that looks like the Jetsons may be dropping in at any minute to both By Georges to the Amli's Royal Blue Grocery Downtown. His residential work has a spare quality offset by the lushness of nature incorporated into it, and his commercial imprint is in demand and becoming easy to recognize.

Jamie Chioco, 3423 Guadalupe, Bldg. A #200, 706-4303, www.chiocodesign.com

Best Bar Interior
Scoot Inn

Gold rush funeral home meets Tamale House. What if your great-great-uncle died while you were watching Deadwood, and later, as his favorite bluegrass band plays the wake and drinks bathtub gin inside while his widow can finally acknowledge the true love of her life, a bajo sexto player and his mariachi band play on the patio outside while his cousin serves homemade tamales from the Airstream by which the now-unburdened couple plans to escape shortly after the funeral services? You, by the way, are the thick-haired hipster in skinny jeans texting under the peeling, harlot-house wallpaper in a dark corner, waiting for Gerard Cosloy's DJ set to start.

The Scoot Inn, 1308 E. Fourth, 512/478-6200, www.scootinnaustin.com

Best Futuristic Skyscraper
360 Condominiums

Like the sparkling spires rising from the Emerald City of Oz, the 360 glances back on an art-deco past while steadfastly steering Austin into the future. Currently our tallest building, the "green" 44-story 360 is home to many of Austin's elite but also surprisingly offers some of the most affordable new Downtown living. And as in the Emerald City, 360's residents can curl up in their pied-à-terre and know for a fact that there's no place like home.

360 Condominiums, 360 Nueces, 512/477-0360, www.lifesurroundsyou.com

Best Monument to Solar-Powered Sustainability
The Harden-Solar Duplex

Named for original owner Minnie Harden, this flamingo-pink Eastside duplex is the result of 3,500 volunteer hours over three years under the leadership of community activist Bo McCarver. It'll soon house a low-income family and features two wheelchair-accessible gardens and two 400-gallon rain barrels. The back half is an experimental solar home with rooftop solar panels, a solar water heater, and an assortment of sustainable materials. The project was spearheaded by the nonprofit Blackland Community Development Corp., which received assistance from Shelter With Spirit, a local nonprofit providing grants for renovations utilizing green-building technology.

Shelter With Spirit, PO Box 153130, www.shelterwithspirit.org

Blackland Community Development Corporation, 2005 Salina, 512/972-5796, www.blacklandcdc.org

Best Patio View for an Afterwork Drink
Opal Divine's Penn Field

Yes, yes, yes, we all know about Opal Divine's divine Cracked Pepper Fries, but Opal Divine's Penn Field location in SoCo knows how to beat the Texas heat by offering a patio decked out with fans, misters, and shady trees. High above the street, the sunsets are golden, and the rest of the world seems far away. One of our best spots for people-watching, Wednesday nights are Texas Beer nights, with every local brew priced at $2.50.

Opal Divine's Penn Field, 3601-K S. Congress, 512/707-0237, www.opaldivines.com

Best Philosophical Guidance by an Apartment Complex
West Annie Apartments

We recognize the need for apartment complexes to use their signage to attract new tenants ("If you lived here, you'd be home by now!"), but there's something refreshing – and quintessentially Austin – about a complex that encourages us all to stop and smell the roses. "Enjoy being" reads the sign at the West Annie Apartments. Not "Enjoy being here," just "Enjoy being." It's a philosophical directive worth taking, and it cheers us every time we happen on it, making us appreciate all the more the tree-lined streets of the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, this city, its people, and our place in it.

West Annie Apartments, 211 W. Annie, 512/479-6776

Best Preservable Artifact
The Rats Mural From the Raul's Punk Era

After being hidden by boards for over 22 years, the fabled rats of Raul's mural re-emerged only after the closing of the Showdown, and just long enough to be documented by the Musuem of Popular Culture before disappearing into the walls again. Painted in 1979 over the period of exactly one night by Sarita Crocker and Claire LaVaye with $125 of house paint and acrylic, the 10-by-20 work has overseen the dance floor during such legendary shows as Patti Smith sitting on the floor of the stage singing "You Light Up My Life," the first 1979 show with the Skunks and the Violators (featuring future Go-Go Kathy Valentine), and Roky Erickson's re-emergence under the punk rock banner. Neither gone nor forgotten, the rats once again live behind a wall … and in our memories.

Best Proof of Austin's Non-Hippie Heritage
Atomic Austin: Mid-Century Modern Tour

Before it was cosmic cowboy central (and wayyy before it was condo central), Austin was the gay place – a fertile field of boho intellectualism, full-on politics, and mid-century style filtered through a Hill Country lens. Last spring, the Heritage Society of Austin shined a light on some of that era’s surviving gems, including those by ATX architectural notables such as Charles Granger, Arthur Fehr, and A.D. Stenger. The modestly elegant scale, bomb shelter, and docents in aprons made us want to throw out what’s left of our tie-dye and get back to the Japanese-influenced, minimalist garden.

Heritage Society of Austin, PO Box 2113, 512/474-5198, www.heritagesocietyaustin.org

Best Resort Homage to Austin
Hyatt Lost Pines

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa offers so much more than the escape of horseback riding, golf, waterslides, live music, s'mores parties at the fire pit, or simply laying out on a chaise under a heavenly canopy of perfect Texas sky. It offers culture: our culture. We're not talking about some banjos and cowboy boots stuck to the wall. Thank the developer's veep, Cami Hardee, who took an academic and openhearted approach to the project: Dozens of the resort's generous suites and public atria are deeply researched micromuseums honoring Central Texas topics such as Lone Star Outlaws, Tejano Tradition, Dance Halls & Last Calls, and Texas Swing, as well as specific artist tribute rooms dedicated to folks as varied as sculptor Elisabet Ney, jazz master Hannibal Lokumbe, and rock photog Burton Wilson. Every inch of Lost Pines pays tribute to Austin's place in the creative lexicon, proving to visitors and old-timers alike: There's no place like our home.

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, 575 Hyatt Lost Pines Rd., Bastrop, 512/308-1234, www.lostpines.hyatt.com

Best Room for Listening
Dell Hall at the Long Center

Sure, Dell Hall is easy on the eyes – all that warm cherrywood paneling and those dusky green seats are so soothing to look at – but the concert venue is absolute ecstasy on the ears. The care with which the Long Center designers and acoustician Mark Holden of JaffeHolden constructed the hall allows every sound, even a pianissimo note from an unamplified violin, to be heard in its farthest reaches. Vents that let sound pass through the balconies, banners, baffles, Venetian plaster, and, yes, that lovely wood work together to channel whatever kind of music is being made – classical, rock, bluegrass, you name it – to you with such fullness and clarity that you feel you're in the midst of the musicians instead of far away from them. What was the old THX tagline? "The audience is listening." In Dell Hall, they certainly are and loving it like never before.

Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside, 512/474-5664, www.thelongcenter.org

Best Structural Update
Stan Haas for the Long Center

The former Lester E. Palmer Auditorium overlooking the shores of the former Town Lake has shed the cocoon that age has bestowed upon it and emerged as the sleek and contemporary Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts overlooking the shores of Lady Bird Lake. Keeping the original stage house (the largest in Central Texas) and original circular support system, award-winning architect Stan Haas and his Nelsen Partners recycled 65% of the existing structure. Of the 44 million tons of debris, 95% of that was recycled, and Haas' creation rose like a dazzling phoenix with an outdoor terrace that offers some of the most spectacular views of our city.

Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside, 512/474-5664, www.thelongcenter.org

Best View From a Fast-Food Joint
Schlotzsky's on South Lamar

No VIP lounge, no valet waiting for a tip, just you, one of Schlotzsky's famous Originals, and one of the best views of our changing skyline. Grab your food, and make a beeline for the outside stairs to a vine-covered patio with a view that extends over South Lamar, the river, and on to the towering and glowing condos that pepper the skyline. Scientifically proven to aid in digestion.

Schlotzsky's Bakery & Coffeehouse, 218 S. Lamar, 512/476-2867, www.schlotzskys.com

Most Excellent Expansion
Casa Marianella

This modest shelter for Central American refugees and immigrants has added a second house across the street from its first homey casa. At peak times in the season of migrant work, people sleep on the floor in the bunk rooms, kitchen, living room, and office. With a second building, Casa Marianella now has classroom space for teaching English as a Second Language, a children's play area, and overflow for sleepers.

Casa Marianella, 821 Gunter, 512/385-5571, www.casamarianella.org

Most Surprising Local Design Events
Design Within Reach

Unless you live in a Downtown loft, the last place you expect to find that comfy block-party feeling is the Design Within Reach showroom, but there it is. Art divas who eschew aspirational materialism for personality cults/reverse snobbery go largely unmissed at DWR’s popular mix of events, which embrace the local and lubricate the mix with hard liquor and a complete lack of wardrobe expectation. Past happenings include an endearing Peka Kucha (a sort of design slam), Modern Design Function (a local furniture design contest/exhibit), and a cross-stitch class. Next they’re collaborating with the Blanton on a Birth of the Cool event; get over yourself, and go.

Design Within Reach, 200 W. Second, 512/472-7200, www.dwr.com

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