Located at the center of Austin’s vibrant arts district, steps from the Texas Capitol and next door to the city’s beloved Paramount and State theaters, Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin’s design creates a cultural gathering for out-of-town visitors and neighbors. The city’s rich local culture is infused into the hotel. The exterior incorporates the adjacent historic theaters to preserve and improve these buildings and create a 330-ft. silhouette in the Austin skyline. The interiors evoke a modern, bohemian-chic gallery with nods to the city’s energetic music scene, and showcases an extensive art collection created by many local and Texas-based artists.
From the inside out
UCO Studio believes every space has a story to tell and the story’s origin for the interior design of the Hyatt Centric rests on Austin’s rich history and vibrant cultural landscape—a recognized creative haven for artists and musicians. Uncovering the local artisans while building upon Congress Avenue’s storied history allowed UCO to bring a dynamic narrative to life within the property’s walls. Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin showcases both the city’s eccentricity and ingenuity in every corner of the property.
The designers created a lifestyle hotel that would become an urban epicenter where guests, employees, businesses and community come together to contribute to a vibrant downtown environment. The hotel’s interior spaces are inspired by Austin’s boho-chic lifestyle and modern originality, with nods to the rich local Texas history and energetic music scene. The hotel was created to feel like an art gallery—a hip gathering place loved by visitors and locals while allowing guests to feel truly immersed in their local environment.
As a hub for creatives, the designers want the interiors to inspire guests, boost productivity and contribute to a stronger sense of well-being. While the hotel is set within the bustling city on Congress Ave., Austin has a beautiful Hill Country and lakes on its urban edge. These natural areas inspired the interiors to provide a connection to the environment through the color palette chosen throughout the hotel’s spaces.
Lighting was used to add warmth throughout the hotel, evoking the feeling and sensitivity of an art gallery. Inspiration was drawn from the neighboring contemporary art museums and theaters to provide clean lines, modern aesthetic and balance to the mood of the space with all of its artistic features. Track lighting, as would be used in a stage set or gallery, is used to augment the overall feel and floats below the ceiling so that it is visible and decorative.
Natural materials and textures bring a higher level of attention to detail including decorative concrete and wood walls with the distinctive art pieces tying the textures together in key spaces, showcased as soon as guests enter the hotel with a statement metal piece “Squares” by Austin contemporary sculptor Travis Seegar in the entryway. Metal, leather, opal white globe lighting and strong continuous lighting lines are seen throughout the reception area, lounges and meeting spaces tying the spaces together.
Instead of using the ground-floor space for the lobby, the design teams saw an opportunity to draw in local pedestrians and theatergoers into the hotel by putting Luminaire, the all-day restaurant by famed San Antonio chef and six-time James Beard Foundation finalist Steve McHugh on the street level.
In turn, the lobby was moved to the eighth floor, also creating a place for guests and locals to gather and enjoy the incredible views of the Austin skyline with the bar and outdoor lounge Las Bis. This space is designed to feel like a residential living room with bohemian touches. With 13-ft. ceilings, design elements such as “Portraits”—cement and stucco on drywall by Red Tape studio that are incorporated into the concrete columns—accent the vast ceiling height, leather belts hold the track lighting metal rods and above the registration desk luminous globes lighting the area are held by metal, a look inspired by musical notes. A textile rug named “Stag” by artist Debbie Lawson hangs behind the front desk and the space features a linear glass atrium under the cantilever step out of the building designed by architects, Nelsen Partners. It feels almost like a waterfall in the middle of the city. The interiors offered a moment to connect guests with a bird’s eye view of the stunning and vibrant downtown scenery.
The lounge on the second floor above the restaurant was conceived as a speakeasy with guests entering through a stairway from the kitchen providing the feeling you are being led backstage. Lighting is a centerpiece of this space illuminating distinct areas within the lounge. A focal wall features a fireplace with a faux fire made with steam and light inside and an art feature above made of guitar straps, weaving the leather in with the metal and lighting.
As the Live Music Capital of the World, each of the hotel’s eclectic guestrooms and suites showcase offbeat touches like guitar-amp nightstands and vintage Paramount and State theater show posters by Austin artists Noel Waggener and Mishka Westell, and lighting that continues the moody, residential feel. Many of the guestrooms feature an acrylic painting on canvas named “Sarah,” painted by Austin artist Janice Fowler.
The meeting rooms are inspired by recording studios and also have the look of a sound stage at a theater. Embracing the technical lighting to make it expressive, the designers leaned into a clean modern aesthetic to make the hardware purposeful, holistic and expressive.
In keeping with the artsy theme, the 1,400-sq.-ft. penthouse presidential suite is inspired by an artist’s loft, boasting full living and dining areas along with an outdoor deck with panoramic views and also doubles as a space for private functions.
The design of the 246-room hotel is the work of Nelsen Partners, which turned the site’s numerous constraints into an opportunity to create a 330-ft. silhouette that will be iconic for the historic downtown corridor.
The development team worked closely with the nonprofit organization Austin Theatre Alliance to ensure the preservation of the neighboring Paramount and State theaters, in turn allowing for future restorations and improvements to be made to the historic theaters.
An abstract glazing on the first four levels mimics the veiling of a backstage curtain with a nod to the adjacent 87-year-old historic State Theatre by matching in coloration. The building’s setbacks and shape protect and provide unobstructed views of the Capitol from its upper levels. The lightness of the cut-out base aligns with the proportions and scale of the neighboring State Theatre, but shifts in orientation to reveal the theater’s art deco parapets and marquee, which were obscured by the clunky awnings of the building previously located on the site. Fitting in and respecting the fabric of the downtown block was thoughtfully accomplished through the architecture’s contrasting and playful gestures within the historic context.
Bray Whaler was pleased to have collaborated with this very talented team on behalf of McWhinney Real Estate Development.