Take a drive through the city and, sure enough, it won’t be long before you spot Michael Hsu’s name on a building or two – or three – going up around Austin.
Michael Hsu Office of Architecture has been chosen to handle a number of high-profile projects in recent years, including the Lamar Union mixed-use project, South Congress Hotel, the Uchi and Uchiko restaurants and most P. Terry’s Burger Stand locations.
The firm, which got its start in 2005, also handles a number of residential projects. Outside of Austin, it has clients in Dallas, El Paso and Houston, as well as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
With a growing customer base, Hsu recently promoted three members of his team – Jay Colombo, Maija Kreishman and Micah Land – to partner.
“They’ve been with me pretty much since the beginning,” Hsu said. “This is a way to recognize their contributions. It’s my name up there, but these are the people running the office on a day-to-day basis.”
The American-Statesman talked recently with Hsu, Colombo, Kreishman and Land about the firm and its role in shaping Austin’s future.
American-Statesman: To what do you attribute the firm’s success?
Hsu: I believe it has to do with our ability to both push for strong designs, as well as to meet specific logistical and functional needs such as budget and delivery schedule. We’ve been very fortunate to be selected for residential and commercial work in a variety of niches which has allowed us to inform our sensibilities and process immensely in ways atypical for an architecture firm.
Colombo: Not all firms really look at the inside and outside as a cohesive thing. We spend so much time looking at the fine details. We’re looking at how everything works together in a cohesive way.
Kreishman: We’ve been extremely lucky. Our clients come back to us. We’re doing something right. Our clients definitely seem to know each other, so word gets out. Austin’s a big city but everyone knows everyone at some level.
What are some current projects you’re working on?
Kreishman: On the far east side we’ve been working on a sister project to Canopy Austin, an art studio complex on which we partnered with Big Medium. This new development replies to a vision for an all-in-one, affordable design and maker collaborative community space, created specifically for the users.
Fareground at 111 Congress has been possible due to an interesting set of circumstances, as well as the owner having the vision for recreating a previous generation’s office building into a local eatery and community park space – a first for Austin.
We’re anxiously excited to be working on Plaza Saltillo. It might be the most important project we have at the moment given the size and location. In the same vicinity, we’re working on a micro-units projects that will be a part of the re-envisioned Waller Creek revitalization project.
What’s next in terms of growth for the firm?
Hsu: We’d like to stay about the size we are now and keep focusing on projects that continue to push the boundaries of what Austin is becoming – diverse, creative and urban. Making spaces that people want to be part of and gather in has always been what we’re about. We’ve been working on projects across Texas, and now in New York and California, which has been eye-opening and a fantastic learning experience.
Land: We all love the city. We’re committed to it. We’ve been very careful with growth. No more than 10 percent per year. We don’t imagine ourselves as a huge firm.
How has architecture evolved or matured in Austin recently?
Kreishman: There are many more opportunities for local designers to have a voice in our city at almost every level. Austin values design. Hiring architecture and interior design firms has become de rigueur as opposed to a luxury, no matter if it’s for a remodel in Bouldin or a skyscraper downtown. We’re seeing so many innovative and fresh project ideas which have been embraced and understood by the development community as a need to make their projects a part of a larger community. It’s been fun to see our profession keep up with the pace of change in Austin and be part of shaping it.