- Ten Eyck Landscape Architects
This boutique hotel consists of four buildings gathered around a verdant interior courtyard. The buildings are organized around pre-existing heritage trees and connected by open walkways that weave in and out of low-hanging live oak branches. As the first mass timber frame hotel in North America, the project’s unique wood structural system sets an important precedent for sustainable and biophilic design.
Tucked away just beyond the bustle of South Congress, this ring of buildings around a peaceful central courtyard is an ode to Old Austin. The hotel’s 89 rooms, restaurant, pool, and event space, as well as a handful of suites and condos, connect with the central courtyard in a tightly woven design in which architecture, structure, and landscape blend together.
The site was originally developed in the 1950s as the Terrace Motor Lodge, a compound of 366 hotel rooms, restaurants, a pool, and a convention center. After I-35 diverted traffic away from South Congress in the 1950s, the lodge fell into disrepair before being purchased by Willie Nelson in the 1970s. For a couple of decades, the facility—dubbed the Austin Opry House—served as a popular music venue and provided affordable apartments to local musicians. While the Austin Opry House has long since relocated, the site’s legacy lives on in Hotel Magdalena: the project’s hospitality group Bunkhouse created a song confessional booth and a quarterly musician residency to connect the hotel to its roots.
Clad with stucco, stone, and brick, the mid-rise buildings step down in scale to meet the adjacent residential neighborhood. Three of the buildings feature a mass timber structural frame consisting of glu-lam (glue-laminated) columns and beams as well as DLT (dowel-laminated timber) floors, walls, and roofs, all supported by a 14” thick post-tensioned concrete slab. The first of its kind in the country for a hotel, the timber frame system allows the exposed structure to radiate warmth and solidity throughout the project.
A retaining wall of massive limestone quarry blocks helps negotiate the 29 feet of slope across the site, dividing the courtyard into two levels. All stormwater is held on site, with rain funneled to underground cisterns and used for landscape irrigation. The upper level’s hotel and pool bar are inspired by Austin’s Barton Springs Pool, with nostalgic design elements reminiscent of 1970s bathing culture.
Hotel Magdalena exemplifies the principles of biophilic design, which is the practice of connecting people and nature within the built environment. The hotel’s sliding glass doors allow interior activities to spill out into the courtyard, creating an outdoorsy and laid-back atmosphere. Unlike the long hallways and enclosed double-loaded corridors of standard hotels, the open-air corridors here allow the beauty of the courtyard to permeate throughout the whole experience, creating the sensation of a treehouse woven into a wild, rambling landscape. Open hallways and generous outdoor porches allow for socializing among guests, fostering the friendly indoor-outdoor lifestyle that is quintessentially Austin. – Kalen McNamara, AIA
Casey Dunn (1-10)