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Designing Dinner Conversation

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Text by Emma Janzen

Photos by Jody Horton

Featured Company: Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

Location: Austin, TX

Project Type: Restaurant

Project Name: Sway

Sway might look more like a fortress than a restaurant from the outside, but indoors, the inviting dining room glows with subtle Asian flare. “The space needed to be relaxed, gracious, and unassuming, with décor that gives a homey South Austin feel,” architect Michael Hsu says. “It also avoids cliché Asian aesthetics while being fun, simple, edited, and carefully composed.”

To achieve these goals, only a handful of materials—including concrete, steel, wood, and tile—were utilized, so the focus remains on the people and the food instead of flashy décor. A play between warm wood panels and tables and colder industrial details provides a visual contrast that keeps the space engaging yet understated.

To encourage communication between customers, six oversized square tables seating up to 16 people each command the central space. Woven basket-like light fixtures loom over each table, drawing the focus to the center of the group and casting soft light on diners perched around the edges. This encourages a communal dining feel without pressuring parties to interact. Customers also can sit in front of the kitchen, which is completely open, “creating a theater-like atmosphere focusing around the preparation of the food,” Hsu says.

Armed with a cohesive design that communicates its power through simplicity, Sway leaves the discussion centered around the main reason that visitors flock to the restaurant—its unique take on Thai cuisine.

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