Austin Epicurean Center
“All Cooking is transformation, and rightly viewed, miraculous.” -Michael Pollan, Cooked
Site: Corner of Guadalupe and W. 29th St.
Program: 8,500 SF
Austin’s culture is defined as unique by most. One component of its uniqueness includes the popular and ever growing food truck population. The Epicurean Center is meant to address Austin’s food culture, community needs, and urban density issues.
My inspiration stems from the food process itself; the mechanical and labor-intensive journey of food from production to consumption. My design developed through a series of drawings and models investigating the hearth, wall, mound, and roof. Moving forward, the building took form following the mechanistic inspiration as well as a variety of responses to the local and larger surrounding contexts. The building is meant to serve as an experiential hub for the community, a place that activates education, activity, and involvement.
The site is located along an uncomfortable intersection. I addressed the corner by creating a buffer between traffic and building program. One may enter the building via the Alley Porch to the South, where I’ve proposed using Ken’s Donuts, an icon of Austin, to draw people in. They may also enter at the North East corner. Alleyways are often missed opportunities for creating interesting spaces. The Porch Alley and the Food Alley activate the site and allow for various indoor to outdoor interactions.
The program is divided into four zones; production, preparation, support, and communal. The hearth, or Conveyer Buffet, is sandwiched between the barrier and the open community space. This conveyer buffet stems from inspiration from sushi restaurants in Asia. The buffet is meant to allow the public to participate in their food production. Godfreid Semper talks about the roof as being a symbol for site, like a sail. The main Food Hall, adjacent to the buffet, is protected by a tensile structure, which stands as a beacon. The structure is designed to be able to open up completely to the alleyways, creating one continuous space for activity.