Specht Architects combines the local with the architectural for The Carpenter Hotel


A mish-mash of buildings, in one of the last pockets of Old Austin, has been transformed into The Carpenter Hotel by local and New York-based architecture firm Specht Architects.

A Quonset-hut-inspired pavilion functions as an event space. (Chase Daniel)

Within the cast-in-place concrete staircase, raw materials and locally-sourced elements combine. (Chase Daniel)

The hotel not only incorporates a great mid-century union hall from 1949 but is located in what was once a small industrial area and before that a pecan grove,” founding principal Scott Specht said.

An industrial feel pervades the restaurant thanks to the use of raw materials as-is. (Chase Daniel)

The same industrial look is utilized in the bar area. (Chase Daniel)

The compound surrounds a tree-shaded courtyard and pool, and houses a restaurant, cafe, event pavilion, and a new hotel building with 93 guest rooms. Made of an exposed cast-in-place, concrete frame, the project is composed of “some classic and unseen Texas materials,” Specht explained, “such as hollow clay structural blocks and decommissioned steel oil drill pipes.”

The welcoming lobby of The Carpenter Hotel, ‘a neighborhood spot that happens to be a hotel. (Chase Daniel)

Strong geometric lines define this view of the concrete main tower’s back stairs. (Chase Daniel)

It’s exactly Specht Architects’ propensity to work with locally sourced elements and raw materials that attracted to call upon the firm for this unique project. Yet, the client-architect relationship was not completely straightforward, Specht told AN Interior.

“We were typically pushing for a more “pure architectural vision,” and they had a vision of a more “local and Austin-centric” focus. In the end, the principal said, “our often-differing visions combined to produce something that was unlike what either of us would have done independently, but ultimately resulted in a very successful and unexpected hybrid.”

Interiors by The Mighty Union juxtapose the raw finishes of the materials with tactile textiles. (Chase Daniel)

A bathroom by The Mighty Union featuring deep blue tiling. (Chase Daniel)

Each structure – from the shade canopies to the Quonset hut pavilion – has its own distinct architectural aesthetic, amid heritage pecan trees, in what is normally a flood plain.

The result is a functioning plan with just the right amount of simplicity and density. Preserving every healthy tree is, in Specht’s own words: “a true collage of elements that fits the ultra-specific nature of its place.”

Site plan: A before and after site plan of The Carpenter Hotel (Courtesy Specht Architects)