Visitors to Austin tend to flock to the city’s best-known music venues, its festivals and food trucks with eating and drinking and listening to music rating high on the list of must-dos. But for the citizens of Austin, and its visitors, the city has more options for cultural experience including theater, the arts, religious and spiritual centers contained in modern, architecturally interesting structures.
With its origins as a children’s museum fostering education and experience, the Thinkery (www.thinkeryaustin.org) today offers locals and visitors to Austin all-round, and frequently changing, programs and exhibits centered on STEAM—science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Located in the Mueller community the 40,000 square foot facility was designed by Californian architects Koning Eizenberg and local Austin firm
Another Austin cultural hub with a long history is the Zach Theatre (www.zachtheatre.org) on the corner of South Lamar Boulevard and West Riverside Drive. The prominent regional theater is one of Austin’s oldest arts organizations and now encompasses a three-theater and four-building campus with a large 8.600 square foot plaza. With the latest addition, the Topfer Theatre, designed by the local firm of Andersson Wise Architects the theater spaces offer mid-size events catering to between 400 and 800 patrons.
You’ll need a head for heights to press the elevator button at the Observation Tower of the Circuit of the Americas (www.circuitoftheamericas.com) and find yourself 25 floors higher and out in the open air. There are views for miles from the tower, designed by Austin’s Miro Rivera (www.mirorivera.com) as a centerpiece to the sporting and event complex.
One of the largest Jewish student populations in the country attends UT Austin and the Texas Hillel, The Topfer Center for Jewish Life (www.texashillel.org) was designed as a cultural center for the students, as well as a place for worship where programs of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements are practiced simultaneously. Located one block west of the university, the building was designed by Austin’s Alter Studio (www.alterstudio.net)
Dedicated to the “preservation, creation, presentation, and promotion of the cultural arts of Mexican Americans and other Latino cultures”, the “MACC” (Mexican American Cultural Center) was commissioned by the City of Austin. To be completed in 3 phases by a design team comprising of CasaBella Architects (www.casabella-architects.com) and Del Campo & Maru with Mexican architect Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon. The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Culture Center offers arts residency programs, camps, and community events. www.austinmacc.com
Austin’s Chinmaya Mission (www.chinmayaaustin.org) houses 12 classrooms, an assembly hall, full kitchen, a shrine, a temple and ancillary rooms. The ashram is located on an eight-acre wooded property in North Austin and was designed by Miro Rivera of Austin www.mirorivera.com
Austin’s anchor on contemporary art space in the heart of the hustle of Congress Avenue is currently under renovation and expansion. The Contemporary Austin –Jones Center (www.thecontemporaryaustin.org) will increase its exhibition space to more than 7,000 square feet, and the renovation will include a permanent, open-air canopy over the rooftop, designed by LTL Architects (www.ltlarchitects.com), and named The Moody Rooftop after the charitable foundation that donated 1.3 million to facilitate the renovations. Previously known as The Art House, The Contemporary Austin is one of two art-focused locations in Austin, the other a 14-acre site known as Laguna Gloria, home of the Driscoll Villa, the Art School, the Gatehouse Gallery, and the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria. The renovation is slated to be completed later this year.