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2008ReadersArchitecture & Lodging

Best Architectural Trend
Green Building

Because turning the lights off will only do so much good. A really eco-conscious household or business is one where energy-saving is built into every switch, and every fitting is recycled and recyclable, and Austin’s progressive building community, backed by Austin Energy Green Building, is ready to design a sustainable future.

Austin Energy Green Building, 721 Barton Springs Rd., 512/482-5300, www.austinenergy.com

Best Austin Landmark
UT Tower

For many years after it was built in 1937, the Tower at the University of Texas was the tallest building in Austin and could be seen from just about any place in town. The years have shrouded the iconic structure in a forest of skyscrapers, but to anyone who has ever driven the upper deck of I-35, it is a symbol of Austin. After being closed to the public for many years, the observation deck is once again open for guided tours.

University of Texas Tower, 2400 Inner Campus Dr., 512/475-6633, www.utexas.edu/tower

Best Bathroom
Driskill Hotel

Duck into the cool, dim hush of the Driskill, and be transported to a time when a gunfight in the lobby was not unheard of. These days, the watchful gaze of Col. Driskill from his truly enormous portrait on the grand staircase still reminds us to be civilized as we relax under the famous stained-glass skylight. When not being used for photo shoots, the women's room at the Driskill stands ready to comfort everyone from a lady with the vapors to a tourist in need of comfort. Its famous pink marble floors and individual "vaults" are presided over by huge pink calla lilies in stained glass, making it a destination of its own.

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

Best Bed & Breakfast
Austin Folk House

This is its fourth appearance in "Best of Austin." You love it – you really, really love the Austin Folk House. This affordable ($95-225) and cozy, centrally located bed & breakfast offers high-rent amenities with down home comfort. Notable for its divine breakfasts, the Folk House serves up quality and sincerity as it proves once again to be among Austin's best.

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

Best Billboard
Adult Swim at Guadalupe

Perched high at the intersection of MLK and Guadalupe, this visual declaration of All Things Awesome is the ultimate pimp of Cartoon Network's nightly programming block of animé, comedy, and innovation that's made Adult Swim a cultural phenomenon. Proudly taking a long residence at one of the most obvious and well-trodden corners, this billboard morphs from brilliance to brilliance, continuously reminding us there's still something on television worth staying up late for.

Adult Swim, www.adultswim.com

Best Cheap Motel
The Heart of Texas Motel

This bighearted motor lodge was opened in 1966 by the Dye family; the Osbon family owned and ran it from 1981 until selling the motel in 2004. In 1984, the Coen Brothers set part of their neo-noir classic Blood Simple on the grounds. Nestled between big roads and the city's southwestern urban expansion, the Heart of Texas is a good old-fashioned motel, a beacon of the days when people weren't afraid to stop and say howdy.

The Heart of Texas Motel, 5303 Hwy. 290 W., 512/892-0644, www.heartoftexasmotel.com

Best Historic Site
Texas State Capitol

Here’s a building that knows a thing or two about fires. The ever-growing demands of governing an ever-growing state are still contained within its august Renaissance revival corridors. Just a shame there will be all those politicians clogging the place up in the new year.

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

Best Hotel
Hotel San José

Exceeding its former glory with a massive overhaul in 2000, the San José quickly won accolades and capacity reservations for sleek design and comfort. Even locals who simply drop in for drinks in the lush courtyard swear they've been on vacation afterward. Regular guests also know about the serene little concrete pond (and some say hangover cure) that awaits on the other side of the garden. With enormous fluffy towels galore and plenty of chaise real estate, we'll trade our wine glasses for plastic and check in.

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

Best Hotel/Motel Pool
Hotel San José

Exceeding its former glory with a massive overhaul in 2000, the San José quickly won accolades and capacity reservations for sleek design and comfort. Even locals who simply drop in for drinks in the lush courtyard swear they've been on vacation afterward. Regular guests also know about the serene little concrete pond (and some say hangover cure) that awaits on the other side of the garden. With enormous fluffy towels galore and plenty of chaise real estate, we'll trade our wine glasses for plastic and check in.

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

Best Hotel/Motel Staff
Four Seasons

Famous for its Sunday brunches, luxurious digs, stunning cuisine, and celebrity regulars, Four Seasons is also quite beloved in Austin for how it treats its guests. The standards here are high, with touches of Texas friendly. Rigorous training? Quality control? Perhaps the staff at this four-star hotel are as hospitable and professional as our readers say, and perhaps it's because they simply love what they do.

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

Best Interior
Driskill Hotel

Duck into the cool, dim hush of the Driskill, and be transported to a time when a gunfight in the lobby was not unheard of. These days, the watchful gaze of Col. Driskill from his truly enormous portrait on the grand staircase still reminds us to be civilized as we relax under the famous stained-glass skylight. When not being used for photo shoots, the women's room at the Driskill stands ready to comfort everyone from a lady with the vapors to a tourist in need of comfort. Its famous pink marble floors and individual "vaults" are presided over by huge pink calla lilies in stained glass, making it a destination of its own.

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

Best Motel
Austin Motel

It's the 1938 tourist court that underwent the makeover that sparked the SoCo renaissance. If you don't have a reason to stay at this local lodging landmark, make up one. Storming this category for eight years running, it remains a nostalgic haunt for some, and for others, the unique, individually decorated rooms are a new discovery. Many regulars reserve favorite rooms by name, so book well in advance.

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

Best New Building (Past Five Years)
Frost Bank Tower

Winning Best Architecture or Best New Building for five years now, the Frost Bank Tower has reached its term limit for that award. We are proud to bestow this honor a final time to the building that has brought Austin architecture into the 21st century. Though no longer Austin's tallest building, it remains a standard-bearer for the future of Austin's skyline.

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

Best Public Art
Austin GuitarTown

Benefiting the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, the Austin Museum of Art, American Youth Works, and the Austin Children's Museum, Gibson Guitar's Austin GuitarTown dazzled us with its launch in November, 2006 from multiple locations touting 35 10-foot-tall guitar sculptures and 30 smaller guitars, embellished by artists and celebs of all kinds. Truly capturing the artistic temperament of Austin, the exhibition, in total, raised $589,000. Public art with a public interest. Viva Gibson!

Austin GuitarTown, Penn Field, 3601 S. Congress Ste. G-400, www.austinguitartown.com

Best Public Space
Zilker Park

Green grass. Wide open spaces. The gleaming skyline backdrop behind our beloved Central park is the only clue that this lush oasis is smack-dab in the middle of a bustling urban center. From the Barton Springs Pool to the soccer fields, from Austin City Limits to Blues on the Green, even the simplest picnic or piñata party make Zilker Park Austin's eternal fount of fun.

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

Best Sign
El Arroyo

Like a page from a big Rolodex full of pithy quotes and witticisms, El Arroyo's message board has been eliciting grins down on West Fifth for many years now. It continues to win the hearts of "BOA" voters with that patented Austin self-expression, which is so tenderly encouraged here in our fair city, at all costs. (For example, on Perry's second term: "Fo mo fo Mofo.") Are you a wisdom seeker? Head to the Ditch.

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

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

Best Window Display
Blackmail

Year after year, Gail Chovan and her band of merry ruffians make us ecstatic that black is the new black. If you're thinking that every original idea must have surely come and gone, go directly to the front window of Blackmail. Always inspiring and sometimes controversial, these displays set an inarguable design standard.

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

2008 Intro
Readers: Arts & Culture
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