Located in the heart of downtown Austin, this project is a renovation and expansion of an existing contemporary art space. LTL was commissioned to design 21,000 sqf of new program within the building envelope, including an entry lounge, a video/projects room, a large open gallery, multipurpose room, two artists’ studios, additional art preparation areas, and an roof deck.
The existing building is an idiosyncratic hybrid of a 1920s theater and a 1950s department store. The architecture is pulled in two directions—as a theater its focus was on the stage, at the west, while as a store it was oriented to the street, at the east. The building’s structure is both a concrete frame with steel trusses and, contained within the concrete frame, a single-story steel frame with a concrete deck. The theater’s single large proscenium space was cut in half by the department store’s second-floor addition.
LTL sought to intensify this peculiar accumulation of history by conceiving of the design as a series of integrated tactical additions and adjustments. These supplements revive and augment existing features—such as the 1920s trusses, concrete frame, and ornamental painting and the 1950s awning, storefront, and upper-level display window. The design also opens the second floor and roof through new vertical circulation and, most importantly, efficiently adds program spaces and objects that allow the building to function and to have a presence in the city as a contemporary art institution. The elevation is perforated by 177 laminated glass blocks. Aggregated where light is needed on the interior, these apertures unify the building and form a logical yet unconventional facade appropriate for an experimental art venue.
Marked by sheared letters, the entry is located at the intersection of the horizontal stucco awning and the vertical stainless-steel-clad stair tower. One enters Arthouse through its name. The awning itself is put on functional steroids. In addition to providing shade and capturing sidewalk territory, the awning extends into the building, further enhancing its ability to integrate the street and gallery. The central stair provides the primary spatial connection to the main second floor gallery. Its lower portion is made from cast concrete, which the upper portion is suspended from the upper floors. The staircase is both playful and grand, weightless and grounded, expansive and local.
The main second floor gallery is a single volume, uninterrupted by columns. As a means to modulate this space, a single 53’ x 13’ wall tracks along steel beams; beams which were needed to stiffen the bottom cords of the existing steel trusses to accommodate the additional weight of the new roof. The roof desk is conceived as a large piece of furniture, where seats blend into floors into screens. The deck facilitates a variety of functions from film screening, to installations, to music events, all within, and activating of, the heart of Austin.
Project Team: Paul Lewis (Principal), Marc Tsurumaki (Principal), David J. Lewis (Principal), Jason Dannenbring (Project Manager), Michael Tyre, Matthew Roman, Eli Allen, Laura Cheung, Tamicka Marcy, Monica Suberville, Hilary Zaic, Mia Lorenzetti, John Morrison, Clark Manning, Hye-Young Chung, Perla Dis Kristinsdottir, Chris Cornecelli, Nicolas Rivard
Contractor: Structura, Inc.
Civil Engineer: Garrett-Ihnen Civil Engineers
Mechanical Engineer: Kent Consulting Engineers
Structural Engineer: MJ Structures
Lighting Designer: Lumen Architecture
Audio Visual Consultant: Dickensheets Design Associates and Blue House Design, Audio and New Media Design