By Noelle Heinze
As we tour the building, Andersson describes things in sound bites: windows in the hotel rooms become “linear postcards,” a bathroom nestled behind a wall is “a little discovery,” a lobby bar with an illuminated glass backdrop is “like walking into the Milky Way.” He uses adjectives such as “intimate,” “bohemian,” and “spooky,” as we traverse through a series of street-level lounges and bars inside the hotel and adjacent to its lobby. Andersson is engaging and so is his narrative, which is helpful since at the time of the tour very little of the building’s interior is finished out. Andersson-Wise Architects worked in collaboration with Heather Plimmer of Stratus Properties for the interior concept, which the architect describes as “bohemian and loose, differently modern than other W designs.”
Because large buildings can be daunting, the architects tackled the scale of their project with solid walls that are held down from its structure, “So they almost read as ruins,” says Andersson. “I grew up in California, and I would visit the early Spanish-American missions, and I loved the sense and the feel of these buildings that were sort of half there, because your imagination fills in the other half. This gives you a really intimate sense of scale.”
The lobby of the hotel is designed in forced perspective with the concierge area and the check-in desk toward the back. Wood walls connect ground-floor rooms and guide visitors from the lobby through the “Records Room,” which features walls lined with vinyl records, to the “Secret Bar” with red upholstered walls. "The floor plan is based on a loop; by the time you reach the Secret Bar, there’s no natural light,” says Andersson.
After the street-level tour, we head upstairs to view a hotel room, which is organized around an intimate, square floor plan, achieved by the placement of a vertical tower just inside the doorway. An aperture in the tower gives a miniature view into the room. Its design is inspired by the vertical line paintings of artist Barnett Newman. Window height is intentionally low (6’5”) to frame views outside, “linear postcards,” and minimize glass, which plays into the building’s LEED Silver certification. A concrete column plows through the room revealing the building’s structure and adding to the design. The notion of layering different patterns—the pattern of the rug, the floor, and mosaic tile in the bathroom—reinforces the bohemian design.
At the time of the tour, no photos or video of the W Austin Hotel & Residences were allowed. Check back in January for images and an update on the completed project.