Inspired by local swimming holes, Intelligentsia Coffee's Austin store was imagined as an urban escape from the heat of a Texas Summer. Located in a new shiny high-rise building, the primary goal was to make something handmade within a heavy handed corporate architect's building.
Drawing from the geology of a swimming hole, the Interiors are a conversation between two earthen elements: The Weathered Rock and The Brick Wall.
Conceived as a 'Weathered Rock' the Coffee Bar is made of sculpted Texas Gray Lueders limestone, the same stone found throughout Texas swimming holes. The Bar's horseshoe shape centers the room, allowing customers to intimately flow around the coffee making experience.
'The Brick Wall' acts as a visual focus to the room, akin to the WPA murals, luring in customers and functionally hiding all of the HVAC systems. To avoid a heavy-handed architectural design, we brought on Erin Curtis, an Austin-based artist, to design the mural. The piece she created for this project, 'We Are Living On A Star; is a series of layered patterns, woven together like a textile of cut full sized brick. It took 4,800 solid bricks, with 10,000 cuts in its fabrication.
The primary materials used were sourced within 35 miles of Austin. The glazed bricks were manufactured by Elgin Butler, one of the oldest brick companies in Texas and located 30 miles Northeast of Austin. Elgin Butler brick can be found in most buildings throughout Austin dating to the 1870's and in buildings in Chicago and New York. To avoid project delays and roadblocks, the team selected misfired shapes and rejected colors that were in stock. Each of those cut to Erin's instructions.
The Lueders limestone used on the coffee island walls and furnishings was sourced from Continental Cut Stone in Florence, Texas. Quarried blocks of Limestone were cut by hand and machine to various rounded and cylindrical shapes.
Wood furnishings and doors utilized Post Oak made from fallen trees Bastrop County, near Austin's Airport. It's the same wood used at many famed Texas BBQ pits.
As a whole, this space was an offering and story for our client to greet Austin. And say there's no other place this could be made in.
What were the solutions?
Make our client's space more interesting than an internationally famous architect's lobby. Turn something clinical into something handmade.
Who are the clients and what's interesting about them?
Intelligentsia is a Chicago-based coffee company established in the 1990's. As a kid from Chicago, their shop represented a new way forward in coffee other than most corporate establishments. It was bold, the branding was distinct and the flavor was incredible.
In 2018, when we met, their brand was established. The importance to me as a player in this project was how to create a story to welcome them to Texas and not be the out-of-town asshole who thinks they know better than locals.
What were the key challenges?
The shell architect and landlord were uncompromising about their monolithic glass facade and connection to the lobby.
Key products used:
Full sized glazed brick from: Elgin Butler
Monolithic Stone Elements from: Continental Cut Stone
Steel Fabrications from: Boomtown Design
Stainless Steel Counters: Texas Sheet Metal
Furnishings: Blackcreek Market & Co