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A Japanese Farmhouse by Ben Koush Project Uchi, Houston   Client Kunikco, Uchi LLC   Architect Michael Hsu Office of Architecture   Design Team Michael Hsu, AIA; Jay Colombo, AIA Photographer Paul Bardagjy

76 Texas Architect

7/8 2014

Austin’s architectural scene, which for a long time seemed to have begun and ended with the pink granite Texas Capitol, is now emerging as one of the state’s most dynamic design centers. Architect Michael Hsu, AIA, has distinguished himself in the city for his many restaurant designs. In 2003, Hsu designed the first Uchi restaurant in a converted bungalow in the Zilker neighborhood for its executive chef and coowner, Tyson Cole. (The Japanese word “uchi” translates as “house” or “household” in English.) He followed this with a second, larger restaurant, Uchiko ( Japanese for “child/daughter of Uchi”), which opened in a repurposed medical office building in the Rosedale area in 2010. That same year, Hsu finished his first Houston project Sushi Raku in Midtown, and in 2012, his office designed the Artisans restaurant at the other end of the same building. Uchi’s Houston restaurant, a much more ambitious design than Hsu’s previous Houston work, also opened in 2012,

and two more restaurants are currently planned: Oporto, also in Midtown, and Hunky Dory, in the Heights. runs through the heart of Montrose and has emerged over the past several years as a hub for a number of the city’s most innovative and highly-rated restaurants. Formerly a semi-seedy drag populated with bars, night clubs, and porn shops, it now hosts Uchi, as well as such upscale establishments as Anvil, Blacksmith, Dolce Vita, Indika, L’Olivier, The Hay Merchant, and Underbelly, many of which have garnered favorable attention in the press, not just locally but also nationally. While the food prepared at its neighbors’ is arguably some of the best in Houston, the physical appearance of most of the other lower Westheimer restaurants is ordinary and uninspired. (A notable exception is the overhaul of Chances, formerly a lesbian bar, into Underbelly and The Hay Merchant by Collaborative Projects, though In Houston, lower Westheimer Road

(Preview) Texas Architect July/August 2014: Art & Architecture