Austin Parks & Recreation Long Range Plan

In collaboration with WRT Design, Studio Balcones served as the local subconsultant for Austin’s Long Range Plan: Our Parks, Our Future. This citywide parks assessment project serves as a guide to Austin’s future land acquisitions, capital improvements, and new programs and amenities for 2020-2030. It was funded in part through contributions from the Austin Parks Foundation and was adopted unanimously by the Austin City Council in 2019.

Throughout the process, Studio Balcones and WRT assessed 150 parks, taking extensive inventory of park conditions and amenities, as well as trends in demographics, industry standards and engagement. During this assessment process, Studio Balcones participated in a number of planning meetings or open houses, where the public was invited to provide valuable input. In a city that is rapidly growing, Our Parks, Our Future serves as a vital assessment of Austin’s parks and a pivotal step towards strategies for Austin’s future development of public space.

Warby Parker

Studio Balcones worked in collaboration with the client, architect, and branding team to create a backyard space for Austin’s first permanent Warby Parker store on South Congress.

A glass window wall visually connects the interior and exterior spaces, with the courtyard acting as an intimate retreat for lingering, reading, and staff events. Situated between the historic Continental Club music venue and a popular Italian restaurant, the small site posed its share of challenges that inspired creative design solutions: a deck in one corner accommodates neighboring tree root zones, and border planters full of water-loving species negotiate grade changes and transport water from downspouts to curb. The store’s library concept gets translated to the outdoors in the form of a large, central steel planter showcasing a collection of native succulents and cacti. A custom metal mesh screen encloses the space and infuses it with the fragrance of star jasmine vines.

Home Slice Pizza North Loop

Studio Balcones worked with local favorite, Home Slice Pizza, to create a fun backyard gathering space perfect for children and adults alike. 

The patio transforms from a children’s playscape during the day, to a relaxing adult lounge space at night, perfect for sitting back and enjoying a drink from the outdoor bar. This backyard space integrates the hip Austin neighborhood aesthetic with Home Slice’s classic New Jersey Pizzeria vibe, creating a uniquely playful dining experience perfect for Austinites of all ages.

Homestead Oaks Apartments

Homestead Oaks is a new multi-family Foundation Communities affordable housing project on Slaughter Lane.

The 135 residential unit project includes a learning center, nature-based playgrounds, a play field, basketball court, dog park, and numerous walking and running trails. The site, formerly a homestead and dog training facility, is largely undisturbed and heavily wooded with Live Oaks, Red Oaks, Texas Persimmons and Yaupon Hollies. It sits inside the Barton Springs SOS district, has a small dry creek on the property, and is home to more than 100 City of Austin Protected and Heritage size trees. Working with HU+O Architects and Axiom Civil Engineers, the design touches the land as lightly as possible, respecting both the SOS regulations and COA water quality requirements. Sustainable design measures include rainwater harvesting, purple pipe irrigation, permeable concrete, and all native plantings.

Texas 2 Data Center

Studio Balcones collaborated with Corgan on the design of the Texas 2 Data Center; as a building typology that is highly technical and not providing much access to nature, the client wanted to emphasize the importance of outdoor, green spaces for employee health and wellbeing.

Studio Balcones collaborated with Corgan on the design of the Texas 2 Data Center; as a building typology that is highly technical and not providing much access to nature, the client wanted to emphasize the importance of outdoor, green spaces for employee health and wellbeing. This project is the second phase to the build out of their Austin campus, and we worked carefully to integrate with and knit together the adjacent phase one landscape.   

The project includes two exterior courtyards – one gravel and one custom limestone paving, surrounded by densely planted beds and curved gabions. The paved courtyard serves as a large gathering area for corporate events, while the gravel courtyard provides ADA accessibility to the building in an attractive and elegant way.

New, native shade trees are paired with places to sit and relax, inviting employees and visitors to come out and enjoy the Central Texas landscape during their work day.  Native plantings, locally-sourced materials, winding paths and ample seating to create a generous and sustainable landscape.

All materials were sourced from in-and-around Austin, including limestone gabions, limestone paving, and drought tolerant native grasses and plants.

Amarra Entrance

A dramatic planting design for the entrance to the Amarra neighborhood in the Barton Creek Community invites residents and guests in through ribbons of weathering steel and native grasses animated by the wind.

A stone and copper mail kiosk pavilion, by Sanders Architecture, grounds the entrance.  The sculptural steel gates frame the scenic view of the Hill Country, the Barton Creek Preserve, and the downtown Austin skyline.  At night, the steel ribbons are lit, creating a welcoming glow. 

Amarra is one of twenty neighborhoods in The Barton Creek Community and is adjacent to the Barton Creek Preserve – a 4,000 acre preserve gifted to the Nature Conservancy by Stratus Properties in 1994.  The Preserve enhances water quality and protects endangered species such as the Gold Cheeked Warbler.  Given that, it was important to select native species that would not interfere with this sensitive habitat.  New native trees are underplanted with large swaths of grasses and accented by structural desert plants, all selected for their ability withstand the harsh sun and wind at this exposed site.

Austin Oaks

Austin Oaks is a heavily wooded 40-acre, 1970s business park undergoing a three-phase transformation with the goal of attracting creative and tech-economy tenants.

Across the site lush native plantings bring texture, movement, and artistic flair to a formerly static and outdated business park. When complete the park will be full of vibrant outdoor gathering spaces and commissioned sculptures that pop against revived caviar-black buildings.

The design celebrates the numerous majestic live oak trees by protecting their critical root zones while opening up their understory for shaded seating and walkways. The plazas and courtyards become new outdoor meeting rooms, lunch rooms, and private phone call destinations. Despite challenging topography and an outdated site layout, accessible routes were established to connect these spaces to nearby buildings, parking, and public streets and sidewalks. 

Biodiversity has been increased significantly by removing non-native and invasive species, planting a wide range of native perennials, shrubs, and understory trees, and replacing large turf areas with native drought tolerant meadows.  Compacted planting beds were aerated, concrete drainage ways removed and naturalized, existing trees were liberated from asphalt and compaction, and overall site irrigation and maintenance demand was reduced. 

Frank.

Shaded by mature Live Oaks, the 900 S 1st development is anchored by a remarkable central plaza that serves as the hub of activity for residents and visitors alike.

This sunken plaza protects the existing Heritage Oaks while allowing visitors to meet up in the plaza, eat on the restaurant deck, or relax quietly in thoughtfully designed nodes with seating, tables and lush landscaping. The 900 S. 1st Street mixed-use development combines 63 modern residences, generous public, retail and boutique work spaces, all of which are nestled sensitively into the existing fabric of the historic Bouldin Creek neighborhood and the vibrant South First District. Residents can enjoy the exclusive use of an outdoor lounge and grill deck surrounded by green roofs, while visitors enjoy co-working spaces along with proposed restaurants and wellness facilities on the ground floor plaza.

Cardinal Point Apartments

Cardinal Point is the first affordable housing community in Northwest Austin. With 120 units, the five 4-story apartment buildings were nestled into the hilly and heavily wooded site to protect existing underground limestone caves and Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat.

During site planning, we worked to preserve as much of the existing juniper woodlands and grasslands as possible, nestling in family friendly amenities:  playgrounds, basketball court, BBQ/picnic areas, a soccer field, and community trails. A rain garden treats runoff and surrounds the trail head with the main playground area, adjacent to the Leasing Center.  Native plantings are incorporated at building foundation plantings and to create a screened buffer along the main road.  

The project is rated 4 stars by Austin Energy Green Building, certified as an Enterprise Green Community, and is LEED V4 Platinum.This project Is a leading example for Austin’s Safe, Mixed-Income, Accessible, Reasonably-priced and Transit-Oriented (S.M.A.R.T.) housing and has served as a model for future affordable housing projects.

The Independent

The Independent is the tallest residential tower west of the Mississippi. Known in Austin as the Jenga Tower, The Independent sits along Shoal Creek in the heart of Austin’s growing downtown.

Studio Balcones’ design of the surrounding landscape serves as a hub of activity for hundreds of joggers, dog-walkers, commuters and tourists each day. The landscape design includes a 76,644 square foot plaza, rain gardens that collect and treat roof runoff, shaded paths along Shoal Creek, protected bicycle and pedestrian paths, and a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge on the northeast end of the site.

There are complex site constraints including, massive water and transmission lines, complex transportation routes, and requirements for fire and crane access. Despite this, the design solution embraces and navigated these challenges through thoughtful circulation, diverse plantings for a dramatic range of conditions, and precise grading to meet existing grades – ultimately creating a safe and connected cityscape. Heritage Pecan and Live Oak trees were protected and enhanced through a bridged paving condition and the removal of concrete. Silva-Cells – a suspended pavement system that ensures less compaction and more long-term infiltration – were used along the streetscape to give new tree root systems adequate room to grow. The Independent Plaza serves as a safe and attractive junction between two growing downtown districts, offering the public an attractive outdoor space to recreate or simply enjoy a peaceful walk along Shoal Creek.