Sway, Austin, TX. Designed by: Michael Hsu Office of Architecture.
Photo: Ryan Farnau


Creating Intimacy on A Busy Street
Insights into Sway and Uchi Dallas by the Restaurants’ Designers


In conjunction with its AIA|LA Restaurant Design Awards, the chapter hosts an annual ‘Behind Great Restaurant Design’ panel at Dwell on Design.

Relaxed but informative, the event features an interchange between the designers of the awards program's finalists, projects selected by the jury, and the jury itself. Afterwords, questions from the audience prompted surprising stories from finalists about how they acquired their first commission for a restaurant, cafe or bar. Back at the office, we thought—why end that conversation here—and asked all 2016 finalists to respond to three questions.


In this installment, we caught up with Jay Colombo, AIA, LEED AP, ‚Ä®Partner at Michael Hsu, Office Of Architecture, for some terrific insights into designing places of intimacy in an urban context. The office designed 2016 RDA finalists Sway and Uchi Dallas.  

How did the office get its first restaurant design commission?
Our first restaurant commission was Uchi in Austin. The client was familiar with our work through other residential projects, and liked our design aesthetics. So they gave us a chance to bring our design sensibilities and attention to details and finishes to a restaurant.

What most surprised the office most about designing each of these restaurants ? Or, what was the toughest challenge of each?
Sway: The large communal tables were a unique seating type so it was great to see these become activated in the space in the background of the theater of the open kitchen. The biggest challenge was creating an intimacy to the courtyard and restaurant despite its location on a busy thoroughfare. Concrete masonry blocks were turned on end to create a screen to the street and an inward looking garden while still allowing the restaurant activity to glow from inside. 

Uchi Dallas was an infill conversion project of a 1970’s two-story bank into a new restaurant with an independent bar on the second floor. So to completely change the original spare facade into something more welcoming, while communicating through materials and texture the new program that was inside posed one of the largest changes.

What’s a current project in the office and why are you excited about designing it?
Springdale General: A sister project (Canopy) which was a recent artist studio and community space focused in East Austin.  Springdale General will have similar sensibilities, but the focus will be on the makers community. The mission of Springdale General is to keep the creative class in Austin by building a campus of affordable maker studios, creative office space, test kitchens, and workshops in East Austin. With over 165,000 square feet of space on 10 acres, this development will be able to accommodate a variety of small to medium businesses from coffee roasters to tech startups.

Image below: Uchi Dallas, Dallas, TX. Designed by: Michael Hsu Office of Architecture.
Photo: Casey Dunn

Last updated: 15-Jul-2016 04:11 PM
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