Austin’s Block 21 complex is a multi-use project that includes the W Austin Hotel + Residences, 53,000 SF of office and retail space, three bars and restaurants, and a 2700-person-capacity live music venue and recording studio for the PBS television production Austin City Limits Live at Moody Theater. A centerpiece for the city, the building was designed to make the most of Austin’s natural environment by capturing prevailing breezes and controlling the intense sunlight to create a protected, yet open experience. Conceived to set a higher standard for environmentally engaged design in Austin, the development has received LEED Silver certification.
A restrained presence is a key component of the entire project. Massing and scale make a strong connection to the neighboring buildings, especially to City Hall immediately to the south. At the street level, open air spaces invite gathering and access from Austin’s Second Street District, a growing urban neighborhood. A landscaped, public plaza on the southeast corner opens to cooling breezes off Lady Bird Lake. An adjoining, open loggia provides a shaded passage from Lavaca Street to the hotel’s entrance. Panels of earthy, rusted steel with board-formed concrete and natural wood make this outdoor walkway comfortable and sumptuous.
The 37-story tower’s primary facades are oriented north to south with apertures composed to control heat gain. On the south side, generously recessed terraces create shaded, outdoor rooms for residents in the summer while also admitting warm, winter sun. North facing units have walls that slide open to form porches. Projecting balconies shade the sun-drenched east and west sides of the tower.