Architecture & Lodging
2010 Readers Poll
2010 Critics Picks

Shelley Hiam

Best Blue Hues Renewed

Her flared top makes us think of Cybill Shepherd in the late Sixties, on her back at a slumber party, kicking up a bell-bottomed leg to Jack LaLanne on TV. The Robert Mueller Airport Air Traffic Control Tower is nothing if not nostalgic. Christened along with the rest of the then-updated terminal in 1961 by one LBJ himself, the tower earned accolades from architectural Mad Men-types of the era. We're tickled teal and turquoise to learn that the Mueller Development powers-that-be intend to preserve the old gal and even restore her to the multihued range of blues of her first unveiling. What will she become? No decision has yet been made. But as far as we're concerned, "treasured landmark" is a great place to start.

Robert Mueller Airport
3600 Manor Rd.
512/530-4000
www.cityofaustin.org/mueller/default.htm

Catellus Austin
4550 Mueller Blvd.
512/703-9200
www.catellus.com

Best Double-Decker Clash Reference
#19

Where else but in East Austin could you find not only a double-decker bus converted into a food eatery, but also one proudly emblazoned with the scowly mug of the late, lamented punk rock godhead Joe Strummer? Bus owner Tim Lasater serves up mammoth cheesesteaks and assorted Austinlicious pub grub, but it's the stenciled Strummer and the Clash quote beside it that make this a photo-op destination as well as a helluva place to fill up before running riot. Don't be crude and feckless. You been drinking brew for breakfast? Either way, Rudie, (and you) can't fail.

John Anderson

John Anderson

Best Mural Savers

When the Movie Store closed earlier this year, there was double sadness. First, because another mom-and-pop video store had gone, but second, because this could have spelled doom for an iconic mural. A mash-up of every sci-fi classic film, from Flash Gordon to Gojira, the fear was that it would fall prey to itinerant taggers or just a can of whitewash. Yet who could be better guardians of the intergalactic glory than an art gallery named after a vintage 3-D monster flick?

Black Lagoon
4301-A Guadalupe
512/534-6719
www.galleryblacklagoon.com

Best New Condo Tower

Like a fabled ivory tower, Spring is located in yet still removed from Downtown. Tall and narrow, not eating up too much skyline, a building like Spring is a rarity in the U.S. It is what is called a "point tower," with one central elevator core. Virtually a world unto its own, Spring is a lush and luxe oasis just steps from one of Austin's busiest intersections (Fifth & Lamar). From the development team of Perry Lorenz and Larry Warshaw (Nokonah, the Pedernales, Saltillo Lofts, etc.), Spring's stylishly designed units all offer a spectacular view of the city – some of them appear to give complete panoramas that send the senses soaring into the stratosphere.

Spring Condominiums
300 Bowie
512/472-8118
www.springaustin.com

Best New Roof Over Our Heads

Architects are fond of the principle, "First we shape our buildings, then our buildings shape us." That's as true of public places as it is of homesteads, and when we don't have welcoming places to come together, the spirit of community frays around the edges – of households, neighborhoods, and cities. The folks who founded 5604 Manor – Workers Defense Project, Third Coast Activist Resource Center, and Third Coast Workers for Cooperation – are specialists in collaboration, and they know that activist fish are only so alive as the water they swim in. The building houses WDP, its allies, and a meeting/performance space (complete with kitchen), and the grounds feature a family playscape and (eventually) a community garden. Indeed, 5604 embodies its reason for being: "Community is an experience, not just an idea."

5604 Manor
5604 Manor Rd.
512/786-1513
www.5604manor.org

Best Place To Hide in Plain Sight

Ever wanted to have the Lady Bird Lake Trail all to yourself? Well, there's at least one way to feel like the lakeside is there for you and you alone: Just east of Lamar Beach sits a large gazebo draped in the spring with wisteria. Dedicated in 1970 by Women in Construction, the pavilion was part of the initial Town Lake Park (now Butler Park) beautification project back in the day. According to Parks and Recreation, it is due for a bit of a face-lift within the next year. Didn't even know it was there? Don't worry, you're not alone. That's what makes this spot the perfect place to relax by the lake and watch the hustle and bustle – and all those runners – go by.

Butler Park
1000 Barton Springs Rd.
512/974-6700
www.cityofaustin.org/parks/butler.htm

Jana Birchum

Jana Birchum

Best Place To Table-Dance at a Family Reunion

Relational Aesthetics is that nebulous, highly intellectual, international art movement that makes art out of meals, chance meetings, and art world elite glad-handing. Relational Aesthetics has come to Austin, sans obtuseness. Commissioned by Austin's Art in Public Places, Open Room Austin by R&R Studios (Miami artist team Rosario Marquardt and Roberto Behar), is a large metal picnic-style table, complete with a laser-cut "lace" tablecloth, surrounded by a group of treelike lamps. It's meant to be used for meet-ups, dinners, family reunions, and impromptu table dances to the latest Robyn single (what?!). In truth, it's more like an adult-friendly design playground. In other words, this "social sculpture" is fun. Fun! Art! Imagine. We look forward to the artworks and events that are inspired by this new addition to Sand Beach Park. Fuck the 360 Bridge and Mount Bonnell – with a view of the lake and the defunct power plant, we suggest this as the location of your next hot date. It worked for us.

Open Room
Sand Beach Park
512/974-9314
www.cityofaustin.org/aipp/aipp_detail.cfm?art=526

Best Respite on the 40 Acres

When their unofficial campus gathering space of the 1980s and ’90s was shut down, black UT students demonstrated and protested publicly. Out of this contested history, the Malcolm X Lounge emerged. Dedicated to providing resources for black students as well as a place to relax and commune, the lounge may be the most radical room on the 40 Acres. It's located in a far corner of the Jester Center, under the Warfield Center for African & African American Studies and past some laconic cafeterias and fast-food joints. A respite for people of color, the lounge is open to all students. Respect: By any means necessary, y'all.

Jester Center
Center for African & African American Studies, University of Texas
www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/caaas

Shelley Hiam

Shelley Hiam

Best Tall Drink of Water

The Austin skyline's changing rapidly, but who'd have thought the water tower at 51st Street would be joining its ranks? The tower, part of Austin Water's reclaimed-water effort, is an unlikely landmark, but when flying into Austin-Bergstrom at night, its ring of red lights at the top is one of the city's first visible icons. Airborne, you have a better view of the 48 photovoltaic panels powering the 170-million gallon tower, not to mention its scaffoldinglike design and the tank's slo-mo swoosh. Designed to deliver reclaimed water to Mueller, UT, and beyond for irrigation, cooling and more, it's 99% complete and will plug into campus at the first of the year – but it's already making an impact.

Austin Water
625 E. 10th St.
512/972-0101
www.cityofaustin.org/water

Best Use of a Puffy Water Slide

You've just been on an hour-and-a-half ride through East Austin in the middle of summer. You're sweaty, stinky, and surrounded by fellow bicyclists in a similar predicament. What's the solution? Well, how about a giant inflatable water slide set amid East Fifth's Scoot Inn & Biergarten that looks part bouncing tent, part water park, and all fun? Welcome to Social Cycling Austin. Whether it's the Monday Night Heavy Metal Ride, the Thursday Night Social Ride – with trips to Barton Springs, water balloon fights, and lots of beer – or any of their other impromptu events, this group of two-wheeled crazies always puts on a good show.

Social Cycling Austin
www.fb.com/groups/socialcyclingaustin

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

 
Readers: Shopping
Critics: Arts & Culture