Dick Clark's modern designs are impossible to miss. His minimalist tendencies and "Dick Clark angles" – as one client calls them – stand out in Warehouse District restaurants Kenichi and the Bitter End Bistro. His residential designs are equally unique. The same client, frustrated by repeated uncreative tree-slaughtering schemes from other design teams, recalls the shock that Clark's "ingenious" solution to their tricky terrain problem only took the architect a think by the pool … making Clark a nominee for "Best Casual Brilliance" as well.
Outside, Col. Jesse H. Driskill’s architectural masterpiece may be overshadowed by neighboring downtown developments – the bust of ol’ Jesse on the roof probably has to lean to see the state house now – but nothing can detract from its internal glories. From the art nouveau-influenced, stained-glass lantern that illuminates the pillars and marble floors of the three-storey lobby, to the plush, ivory-colored bathroom towels, monogrammed with a thick, swirling D, everything about the Driskill whispers refinement. It's tough to imagine that, in 1969, the halls where LBJ romanced Lady Bird were scheduled for demolition.
Built in 1877, this historical slice of original Republic of Texas homestead also doubles as a quick weekend getaway, offering the peace and quiet of the country within arm's reach of the city. Just you, an acre of green stillness tucked away atop a tree-crested bluff, your favorite books, and innkeeper Phoebe Williams' cozy hospitality, the kind that wafts freshly baked cookies into your nook of cloudy comforters and heavenly linens. Yeah, we'll pinch you, but you won't be dreaming.
Repetitive and visually appealing, great giant bottle caps of every flavor available from the little brewery in Shiner beckon to motorists headed southbound on I-35. Don't drive. Come in and relax. Take the edge off your busy day with a cold one. Ain't nothin' finer.
Want a VIP pass to the afterlife and to requiescat in extra peace? Snag a plot at the Texas State Cemetery, and you’re guaranteed views of lush landscaping, shady trees, and sparkling ponds. But there is one stipulation: First you have to become a politician, celebrity, or Confederate soldier. The last of which may require some extra-special effort.
Stretching along the Colorado River in the heart of Austin, Town Lake Park is truly one of the city's finest treasures. The 10-mile hike and bike trail is always populated with joggers and cyclists, baby buggies, and happy dogs. At any point along the trail, outdoor adventures await - from the many ball fields at Fiesta Gardens to the swimming holes Deep Eddy and Barton Springs. When dogs aren't busy with their puppy play dates in Auditorium Shores, the space is often home to concerts and festivals.
We just can't hide our Texan pride. No, really: State law limits the height of building projects in areas surrounding the historic dome (completed in 1888) so that its majesty can stay visible from many observation points around the city. Free guided tours help make the interior easy to view as well, that is, if you can ever stop basking in the legislated view.
"BOA" award clean-sweeper Hotel San José still reigns as the Queen of the SoCo Strip. With its chic landscaping by Big Red Sun, minimalist interiors, and inviting courtyard, it is a home away from home for regular visitors to Austin, as well as a gathering spot for the local scenesters. Owner Liz Lambert has the golden touch, and the San José is her crown jewel.
An architectural delight overlooking Town Lake, City Hall continues to be the best new addition to downtown Austin. Clad in copper and limestone, the four-story contemporary structure designed by Antoine Predock offers plaza, mezzanine, and amphitheatre areas, and a media room which may be reserved by the general public. Under certain circumstances, the council chamber, board and commission rooms, atrium, and certain balcony areas may be available, making this truly a public space ... and one to be proud of.
Outside, Col. Jesse H. Driskill's architectural masterpiece may be overshadowed by neighboring downtown developments - the bust of ol' Jesse on the roof probably has to lean to see the state house now - but nothing can detract from its internal glories. From the art-nouveau-influenced, stained-glass lantern that illuminates the pillars and marble floors of the three-story lobby, to the plush, ivory-colored bathroom towels, monogrammed with a thick, swirling D, everything about the Driskill whispers refinement. To think that, in 1969, the very same halls where LBJ had once romanced Lady Bird were scheduled for demolition.
Judging by how hard it is to book one of the 41 uniquely decorated rooms, the avenue's best kept secret is no secret. The Austin Motel typically accepts reservation requests three months in advance, and dates usually sell out before the first day is over. Those lucky enough to score a room are right in the middle of the action, positioned to enjoy SoCo shopping and restaurants, a Fifties-style swimming pool, and a very friendly staff.
When construction began on the 515-foot-tall Frost Bank Tower less than two months after 9/11, it was questioned as financially reckless. When it was complete in 2004, critics said it was more Manhattan than Austin, that its blue glazing did not fit the pinks and russets of Downtown’s stones and bricks. Now its four-peaked crown and azure glass exterior is a defining part of the city’s skyline.
Deeded to the city of Austin in 1917 and 1931 by Col. Andrew Jackson Zilker, who felt it "a wrongful thing for this beauty spot to be owned by any individual and that it ought to belong to all the people,” Zilker Park remains the crown jewel of Austin's public trust. It is the home to: rolling fields; spring-fed pools; picnic areas; beautiful botanical and sculpture gardens; a fantastic science and nature center; a disc-golf course; and trails for hiking, biking, and climbing. Need we say more?
We blinked, and it happened. Within a few short years, these plots just north of the river were magically transformed into a pedestrian-welcoming, European-style promenade. A bustling cityscape of sleek high-rise condos, chic boutiques, and cafes is the setting for a perfect day and an even better night, all within a two-block radius: Coffee at Jo's; stylin' at Shiki, Gomi, Lucky Soles, etc. Indulge your "lofty" interior aspirations at Design Within Reach, dine alfresco at Taverna, glug at Cru Wine Bar, and top it all off with gelato from Paciugo. And that's just the short list. Whew! What a day and what a district!
Whether by clever wording or an, um, iconic shape, these two signs are as Austin as hot sauce. El Arroyo's ever-changing and racy wording keeps the traffic on West Fifth all agog and has won multiple "Best of Austin" awards … but so has the Austin Motel's historic sign which was, um, erected in 1938 still reigns over the SoCo Strip. Though it's the Austin Motel sign that says, "So Close, Yet So Far Out," the sentiment certainly applies to both establishments.
Remember when Second Street was nothing more than warehouses, parking lots, and the occasional backhoe? The modern Second Street District is part of an urban design plan catering to people who live, work, and entertain in downtown Austin. Tied but not forgotten, South Congress still reigns supreme. The embodiment of all things weird, SoCo is a vision in color and ’tude. Pedestrian-friendly with eye-candy galore, Second and SoCo are the new faces of Austin.
Gail Chovan's establishment, offering goods without the "distraction of color," has swept this category since its inception three years ago. How can a storefront get so much attention working with just one shade? With Gail's creative sense, honed in France, New York, and Austin. We're so glad she's continuing to help make the SoCo scene colorful.
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