The pocket patio at 804 Congress in Austin, Texas, transforms four side-angled, city-owned parking spaces into a dynamic patio and social gathering area. Created to serve customers of the Café Medici coffee window and tenants of the adjacent office building, the patio is a lively destination, brimming with activity throughout the day. dwg. worked with the building owner Gone to Texas, to successfully reimagine the typical office building entry experience into a front porch style setting, expanding the lobby into the right of way.
The space features two separate patios, connected by movable seating and tree island decking. The south patio has an elevated countertop along its edge, connected to a large raised planter and movable café tables and chairs. The north patio has several custom, built-in tables with a bench integrated into the planter. The custom planters are crafted from steel and were built on-site. The seating and counters are made of sealed composite beam. Furniture selections offer a variety of seating options and the varying counter heights allow for leaning, standing and sitting. The rocking chairs have proven to be the most popular seating options, and can generally be found filled with people looking for a break in their work day. Native and adaptive planting throughout the deck offers respite from the surrounding sidewalk and pavement. Existing trees offer ample shade for the patio visitors.
The permitting process for pocket patios in Austin requires that structures in the right of way be temporary in nature. All built structures in the right of way must be relatively easy to remove if necessary. dwg. approached this challenge with a design made up of modular components that lock together in a tessellated metal frame. As few bolts as possible were used to secure the structures, in effort to minimize interventions to the existing sidewalk. Careful coordination with the contractor was required to ensure feasibility. The updated design also promotes access, transforming a non-ADA-compliant sidewalk into an accessible patio. Permanent irrigation was not available for this site, so dwg. selected a palette of native and low-maintenance plants for the beds.
The patio has been adopted as a testing ground for upgrading the tree health of Congress Avenue’s canopy. A recent tree report completed by the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) shows that many trees along the Avenue are in poor or declining states and lack the appropriate conditions for healthy growth. dwg. worked with the DAA and the city to excavate the existing sidewalk at 804 Congress to expand the soil volume of the red oak in the center of the pocket patio. This expansion, in conjunction with mulching, soils testing and a process called RootRx – the practice of injecting nutrients into the soil mass while de-compacting – offers the tree access to more water, nutrients and oxygen, critical for it’s development. If successful in improving the health of this tree, these arboriculture strategies will be applied to trees all along the Avenue.
This patio marks the second of its kind along Congress Avenue. The city’s original pocket patio, further south on Congress, was made possible by a unique partnership between the City of Austin, the Downtown Austin Alliance and the private property owner. Also designed by dwg., the original pocket patio served as a pilot project, paving the way for an updated and simplified patio ordinance, making 804 Congress’ pocket patio possible.
Congress Avenue has become a place for experimentation and pilot projects that serve to prioritize the pedestrian and encourage vital retail experiences. dwg. has worked closely with private property owners, the DAA and the city to design, implement and test these interventions. 804 Congress marks the most recent successful application of tactical urbanism into Austin’s downtown core.
Design | dwg.
Photo Credits | Adam Barbe