- HKS, Inc.
- DPR Construction & Hunt Construction Group
With over 1,000 guestrooms and 1.2 million square feet, the 34-story JW Marriott is one of the largest hotels in Austin. The building consists of a three-level underground parking garage; a four-story base containing restaurants, event halls, and meeting spaces topped by an outdoor pool deck; and a glass-and-copper tower containing the rooms and suites.
The JW Marriott is exemplary for the way that it activates a previously underutilized block along Austin’s main thoroughfare. From the outset, the architects sought to create a design that enhances the streetscape and reflects Austin’s unique cultural identity.
Believe it or not, a parking lot occupied this site prior to the hotel’s construction. While surface lots in downtown are becoming much less common, they still represent a major obstacle to fostering a vibrant pedestrian atmosphere. There are said to be at as many as two billion parking spaces in the United States (which works out to eight parking spots for every car in the country). In cities that are trying to enliven their urban cores, parking lots are energy vacuums that detract from the human experience.
The architects’ goal to create an active urban edge is directly reflected in how the building meets the street. The low profile of the base is in keeping with the scale of the historic storefronts along Congress, while the setback tower protects Capitol views. The vehicular drop-off has been relegated to one side so that the frontage along Congress Avenue is entirely devoted to pedestrians: trees, benches, and bike racks line the sidewalk, while the small walk-up “Burger Bar” nods to the city’s food truck culture. The aptly-named “Corner” bar is an open-air, semi-public space that takes advantage of its relationship to both Congress and the Second Street District, which is dedicated to walkable shopping, dining, and entertainment.
The exterior palette—a combination of copper panels, limestone blocks, wood trellises, and glass—provides a contemporary take on traditional Central Texas materials. Inside the lobby, limestone-clad columns span between abstracted topographical maps of Austin on the floor and ceiling, while the illuminated artwork behind the check-ins was inspired by magnified images of cacti. Small touches like the swarm of bats in the fireplace and the painted map of downtown on the bar ceiling capture a sense of place.
The design has earned LEED Silver and two stars from the Austin Energy Green Building program. A 20,000-gallon rainwater cistern reduces stormwater runoff and provides all of the hotel’s landscape irrigation; automated systems detect unoccupied rooms and adjust the temperature accordingly to save energy; and the west-facing façade includes additional insulation to reduce heat gain from the late afternoon sun. – Bud Franck
HKS; Atelier Wong Photography