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.