Austin Way : How Architect Michael Hsu Plans to Revamp the Domain

Photo: John Davidson

 

Austin foodies know the work of Michael Hsu. The architect has become synonymous with the booming local hospitality scene, with the design of stalwarts Uchi, Sway, and Hotel Ella to his credit. Having recently completed the modern Spanish eatery Bullfight, the interiors of the South Congress Hotel as well as its restaurant Café No Sé, plus a number of commercial and residential projects, Hsu—who founded his own architecture studio in 2005—might be Austin’s most prolific architect.

Born in Taiwan, raised in Houston, and a resident of Austin since graduating from the UT School of Architecture in 1993, Hsu’s affinity for the town he calls home informs all of his work. “Being a part of Austin is so important to us,” he says of his firm’s decision to remain locally focused. “It’s our home, and we’re responsible for it… that custodial role is very much felt by the design community here.”

Hsu defines his design aesthetic as “simple, modern, material-rich, and open to many influences,” characteristics that prevail in his best-known projects. Encouraged by the successful collaboration with restaurateurs Daryl Kunik and Tyson Cole on Uchi in 2003 while working at Dick Clark + Associates, Hsu decided to launch Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, and a host of popular, noteworthy Austin establishments followed, including P. Terry’s, Home Slice, La Condesa, and Uchi’s sister property, Uchiko.

“We work closely with clients, trying to draw out the things about architecture, design, and space that they love and have memories of, but also capture their aspirations,” Hsu offers. “We want every project to be one of one.”

Hsu acknowledges the importance of the South Congress Hotel, which opened in September, to his design portfolio—“It was a rare opportunity to add to this great Austin avenue,” he says. “The challenge of uniting a hotel, multiple restaurants, as well as gathering spaces into one project was very rewarding.” However, he considers his most fulfilling projects to be Canopy Austin, a rehab of warehouses into artist studios, along with its forthcoming sister project Springdale General, “a collective of makers and creatives.” He explains, “Both projects are about having people, architecture, and development help cultivate communities of like-minded individuals and businesses.”

With new and upcoming work that includes Viva Day Spa, retailer Raven + Lily, and a second location of Sway, all at the latest phase of the Domain; Fareground, a food hall at 111 Congress; and projects with the Uchi group and pizza purveyor Home Slice, Michael Hsu Office of Architecture has a full year ahead. A humble and gratified Hsu notes, “We’re still here, growing, and have the trust of our clients to allow us to continue to work on very diverse project types—something that can be quite rare in architecture.”

Read the full Austin Way article here.