Architecture & Lodging
2004 Readers Poll
2004 Critics Picks
Best Architecture

Sleek and gorgeous, the Frost Bank Tower, along with the Capitol, is the most identifiable mark on the new Austin skyline, and the tower is Austin's first world-class skyscraper. Adding a fresh, stylish element to our cityscape, this 515-foot monolith, designed by Duda/Paine Architects, has a silvery-blue glass used nowhere else except NYC's 3 Times Square building. Among many firsts, it is now Austin's tallest building, and at the time of its ground-breaking, was the tallest to be built post-9/11. The 600-foot crane used to construct it is the highest crane ever used in Austin. Design Architect: Duda/Paine Architects LLP; Architect: HKS Inc.; owner, developer, and property management: Cousins Properties, 401 Congress, 336-9877

Frost Bank Tower
401 Congress

Best New Building (Past Five Years)


Frost Bank Tower
401 Congress

Best Recently Restored Building

Nobody wants to revisit a childhood home to find it’s been replaced by a convenience store. As it turns out, people don’t feel any better when it happens to familiar public spaces, either. Our landscape is our home, and the Penn Field, Harry Ransom Center, and Driscoll Villa renovation projects have proved that as a familiar landscape changes – be it updating World War I-era airfield barracks for modern business-use, bringing more light into the HRC, or restoring Laguna Gloria’s Tuscan villa to its original 1916 beauty – it can still remain, quintessentially, Austin.

Harry Ransom Center
300 W. 21st

Penn Field
3601 S. Congress

Best Waiting Room/Lobby

Like a step back in time, the renovated lobby of the Driskill hotel recalls an Austin unmarred by miles of traffic, manufactured subdivisions, chain restaurants, and strip malls. This homage to Lonestar aesthetics offers rich leather couches, cozy dining areas, and intimate lighting; the room acts as a destination rather than a segue – a place for reading, sipping coffee, and chatting with friends. The 1886 Cafe & Bakery, situated conveniently within the lobby area, boasts an array of delicious vittles.

The Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos

Best Urban Public Space

Maybe it's the Austin Farmers' Market, or the budding "synergies" of the CSC project finally bearing fruit, but the Warehouse District's public square is taking shape as the kind of civic front porch Edwin Waller intended when he laid out Austin more than 150 years ago.

Republic Square
422 Guadalupe

Best Civic Beautification

Our readers' overwhelming vote for what's happening along the East 11th corridor says that a broad range of Austinites recognize the jewel we have where the sun comes up in Central Texas. The new Charles Urdy Plaza featuring the dual mural Rhapsody by UT studio art prof John Yancey and Sankofa (see cover) by longtime East Austin glass artisan Reji Thomas, is a fitting hub for the mad clatter of new red brick that's been going up all around. Office spaces and banks are all well and good, but the real news is that Eastside stalwarts like the Victory Grill now have new leases on life. Of course, the balance between urban renewal and the pushing out of the very same people who saw the area through thick and thin is very delicate. But with the surge of energy that this recent boost has brought to the actual people most affected by the changes, this particular "beautification" project has a chance to achieve cultural miracles.

Austin Revitalization Authority
1105 Navasota

Best Traffic Light/Intersection

It is the heart of downtown – the intersection of Austin's business days and its boogie nights. Mammoth businesses – the Bank of America and ABC Bank on the southern end, Schlotzsky's Deli and Starbucks on the northern end – loom over more personal, more Austin-like features: trumpet-blaring evangelicals, jugglers, buskers, Sixth Street revelers, and the new Angelina Eberly statue. Eat a sandwich on the street corner, watch the people, and wait. Something's always bound to happen here.

Sixth & Congress

Best Part of Town

Tired of hearing about the greatness of 78704? Hey, there’s a reason why people tattoo these numbers on their arms and plaster them on the backs of their vehicles. South Austin is indubitably one of our city's shinier gems, with posh little boutiques, vintage shops, and outdoor cafes to while away an afternoon. Even sitting in traffic seems to be more pleasant here, as drivers courteously let one another in and stop to allow pedestrians to cross the street. Parking is free and plentiful, and this ZIP never closes. For a great summation of this hallowed land, may we recommend the following Web site?

Best Billboard

In such a media savvy city, who can accurately ascertain which outdoor advertisement resonates the loudest? While Austin's active culture jammers garnered honorable mention, e.g., "The Marines sign that someone keeps putting a Hitler 'stache on" (as if the Manchurian, MK-ULTRA intonation of "The Change ... Is Forever" wasn't creepy enough), y'all chose two of Texas' most famous exports – Willie and women. Metro's ad finds the Red-headed Stranger lamenting that with all the traffic, he doesn't want to get "on the road again," while Darque Tan features a lovely 60-foot looker catching rays. It's a good day when public transportation issues and sex appeal meet on an equal footing, Austin.

Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority
2910 E. Fifth

Darque Tan
2003 Guadalupe

Best Signage

The newly remodeled Zee features a fanciful addition to the front facade, complete with one very merry necktie and one endearing rabbit. Created by the good folks over at Blue Genie Art Industries, the bouncy bunny is the perfect ambassador to this popular bistro. Perhaps the Chez should consider adding carrot cake to its already bulging list of decadent desserts!

Chez Zee
5406 Balcones Dr.

Blue Genie Art Industries
6100 Airport

Best Window Display

Using vintage furniture, muted colors, newsprint text, and elegant clothing, Blackmail’s windows present a minimalist look that cooly beckons shoppers to come inside. The setup is always artistic, stylish, ephemeral, and creative, reflecting the store itself and the people who patronize it.

1202 S. Congress

Best Bed & Breakfast

The Austin Folk House boasts a comfortable blend of old and new in the heart of West Campus. They’ve complemented the tried-and-true B&B ingredient – lovely antique decor – with a lively folk art collection, and have added live music and ever-evolving, indulgent breakfast spreads (thanks to former Zoot chef Michael Hinojosa) for a true Austin flavor. Given their central locale, we find their rental bikes to be especially thoughtful, and given their rental bikes, we find the massage package to be a thoughtful option.

Austin Folk House
506 W. 22nd

Best Hotel

Spare, cool, and retro, Hotel San José is a gem of local lodging. It's been around since 1936, when it was featured as "an ultra-modern tourist court." Seventy years and some incredible vision later, it maintains that ultramodern feel with gravel paths, a cool bar and patio, and brilliant, clean-lined/streamlined design.

Hotel San José
1316 S. Congress

Best Motel

The Austin Motel has been providing affordable, one-of-a-kind lodging in the heart of downtown for decades. They fill up most weekends, so reserve early to impress your favorite out-of-town guests. With a fantastic swimming pool, comfortable outdoor seating, and short walking distance to the best places on South Congress, the Austin Motel is certain to be a hit and give your visitors a great dose of the best Austin has to offer.

Austin Motel
1220 S. Congress

Best Bathroom

At most, restrooms are an afterthought; at the very least, they are merely bearable portals for one (or two) of life's little necessities. These two winners are exceptions. What relief! The Headliner's Club offers a panoramic view westward with its wall of windows in the mens' room, while the Driskill hotel envelopes the user in wood-panel and chandelier opulence.

The Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos

Headliners Club
221 W. Sixth

2004 Intro
Readers: Arts & Culture

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