Michael Hsu Office of Architecture designs a colorful, collaborative hub for its Austin headquarters

Art Forward

Walls clad in mohair for style and sonic isolation, oversize greenery, impressive virtual-reality tech, and a yellow vintage Ducati motorcycle are just some of the features of Michael Hsu Office of Architecture’s new digs. Sited in Austin’s Rosedale neighborhood, the industrial office building, which was initially crafted as a spec commercial space, provided “a fun challenge,” said principal Michael Hsu, whose firm does everything from residential and hospitality to multifamily and adaptive reuse. “The studio is the result of a great deal of collaboration and features the work of many of our favorite fabricators and artists.” In addition to this location, the practice also works from a smaller office in Houston and supports employees in Dallas, Denver, Louisville, and Nashville.

(Chase Daniel)

Deep-blue, mohair-lined walls materially soften and acoustically separate the office. (Chase Daniel)

Large windows, terra-cotta block, a verdant stairwell, and an expansive yet residential sensibility combine to offer a “physical representation” of the architecture and interior design firm’s process. Spanning two levels, the first floor’s formality, intended to serve as a backdrop for entertaining clients, is juxtaposed with the more casual zone for creativity upstairs. “As hospitality designers, it’s important for us to have an inspiring space, not just for clients but for ourselves,” Hsu remarked.

The entry lounge features a commanding and playful painting from Patrick Puckett, which is set against gray-routed wood walls. There’s a spalted maple and polished aluminum reception desk and a custom light fixture designed with regular collaborators Warbach Lighting and Design and multidisciplinary artist Brandon Mike. Litmus completed all of the custom millwork.

A variety of finishes, chairs, resources, and plants can be found throughout the office, where no space was left unconsidered. (Chase Daniel)

(Chase Daniel)

When it comes to the conference rooms, which double as formal dining spaces, the luxe touches of the vintage chairs and custom tables from local fabricator Drophouse come as no surprise. While conference rooms in the firm’s previous home were a hot commodity, introducing a multitude of private workspaces and phone rooms was an important factor in making the place their own, noted Beth Sims, the office’s client engagement director.

Except for singular phone booths and a few private workspaces, the office is left open, encouraging collaborative work. (Chase Daniel)

If the first floor shows off the firm’s residential expertise, the second level is where the creative magic happens. Employees work side-by-side in a plan carved out with a lounge, materials lab (a favorite space for designers), white-tiled kitchen, and more expansive botanicals. “The spaces are designed to facilitate how we work now, allowing for different modes, sizes, and shapes of collaboration,” Hsu added.

As on the ground floor, art has been placed throughout an otherwise neutral backdrop. There’s a pixelated deer head sculpture from Shawn Smith, a unique green millwork cabinet, and works from Denise Prince, Clare Grill, Hugo Pernet, and Paolo Arao (some are sourced from Hsu’s personal collection). The most delightful design touch accents the often-neglected space of the bathroom: A wavy, black-and-white bathroom mural by Austin artist Jana Swec runs across all of the surfaces. “Even the toilet and toilet paper dispenser are covered,” Sims said. “It’s very unexpected.”

(Chase Daniel)

Hsu and fellow principal Maija Kreishman have set up shop on either side of the floor, as there are no closed-in offices here except for human resources. “The new studio provides a space for [the office’s] team to develop curiosity and creativity while being surrounded by a community of talented people,” Hsu said. As seen on a recent visit, it is clear that plenty of natural light, minimalist desks, and a bevy of design details—from tile to fabric and more—will keep the inspiration coming as the office realizes its growing portfolio of commissions.